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Op-ed | Michael Stumo: Sen. Baldwin introduces legislation for safer online shopping

June 03, 2020

Excerpt: The new bill that Sen. Baldwin introduced, the Country of Origin Labeling Online Act (COOL), would mandate a prominent country-of-origin description for all products sold online.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are increasingly seeking out "Made in USA" options. This is logical, since federal law mandates that food, medicine, toys, and merchandise manufactured in the United States meet stringent health and safety standards.

[Michael Stumo | June 2, 2020 | LA-Crosse Tribune]

But what about the goods that Americans buy online? When shopping on Amazon, for example, consumers may find themselves uncertain of a product’s safety, or whether it’s even made in the USA. And that’s a problem, since unreliable manufacturers in countries like China have a long track record of producing shoddy and unsafe goods.

Washington is finally tackling the problem, though.

And Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin is leading the effort. In tandem with Florida Sen. Rick Scott, she’s introduced legislation requiring that country-of-origin labeling be clearly displayed for any product sold online.

That’s an important move, since consumers want to find American-made options. And they also want to know if a product is made in China or another country where unsafe production has long been an issue.

The new bill that Sen. Baldwin introduced, the Country of Origin Labeling Online Act (COOL), would mandate a prominent country-of-origin description for all products sold online.

It would also require a clear disclosure of the country in which the seller of a product is located. The seller’s location matters, too, since counterfeit and knock-off goods have become a rampant problem in mainland China.

U.S. consumers certainly want to buy American-made options. A Pew Research study found two-thirds of Americans now hold an unfavorable view of China. And Google Trends shows the “Made in USA” search term now tracking at an all-time high.

Part of the problem is that questionable online sales are becoming more common.

A 2019 investigation found 10,870 items for sale on Amazon that had been declared unsafe by federal agencies, were labeled deceptively, lacked federally-required warnings, or were banned by federal regulators. This included many items that big-box retailers would normally bar from their shelves. And of the 1,934 sellers whose addresses could be determined, 54 percent were based in China.

Faulty e-commerce is now becoming more widespread. 

All of this matters because more and more Americans are turning to online shopping in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown. And they need to be certain that the nutritional supplements, medicines, electronics, toys, and household items they buy online are safe.

Sen. Baldwin’s “COOL Act” is an important step toward reclaiming the safety of online shopping. Consumers deserve the chance to buy safe, American-Made options. And Congress should pass this legislation as soon as possible.

Read the original article here.


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