Posts Tagged ‘competition through regulation’

Buy our protective services, or we’ll rat you out to the feds

I’ve got a new post at Cato summarizing dramatic new testimony in the case (briefly noted here last year) of a laboratory company that got reported to the Federal Trade Commission for data breach — and drawn into a crushingly expensive legal battle — after it declined to buy data security services offered by a company with Homeland Security contracts. The battle has been raging for a while, with the nonprofit Washington, D.C. group Cause of Action representing LabMD and outlets like Mother Jones running coverage unsympathetic to its case.

May 6 roundup

California toughens criminalization for unlicensed contractors

If you hire some consenting but unlicensed neighbor for a not-very-big repair or construction job in California, there’s now a greater chance he or she will be headed for jail, no matter how happy you may be with the quality of the work. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed S.B. 315 (text, progress, promotional fact sheet), described by its sponsor, Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Beverly Hills), as a measure “to help curb California’s underground economy.” The measure would step up penalties and enforcement against persons who advertise for, or perform, repair and construction work with a value of $500 or more, counting parts and material as well as labor. (By its terms, the bill appears to apply to someone who offers to do a $500 job for your office that consists of procuring a $400 item and adding $100 for the labor of installing it.) First offenses are subject to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine, and subsequent offenses are treated yet more harshly.

There’s more. The bill, according to its legislative summary, “would additionally require that the enforcement division, when participating in the activities of the Joint Enforcement Strike Force on the Underground Economy, be granted free access to all places of labor,” at least in business locations. (Yes, “all”; you only thought your property was private.) And although the literature on the bill refers repeatedly to the need to curb “cheating” contractors, the penalties apply no matter how satisfied you may be with the contractor’s work.

That’s because protecting customers isn’t actually the point. Such is the political grip of occupational licensure lobbies that the bill passed unanimously in both houses of the California legislature with support from licensed repair and construction contractors. Lieu: “Groups supporting SB 315 are: Contractors State License Board (sponsor); Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Association; Air Conditioning Sheet Metal Association; American Subcontractors Association, California Inc.; California Chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association; California Landscape Contractors Association; California Legislative Conference of the Plumbing, Heating and Piping Industry; California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors; United Contractors.”

In short, this is the sort of thing the California legislature does when it wants to think of itself as pro-business: it extends criminal liability for doing business in any other than the authorized way.

More: I’ve got some further thoughts at Cato at Liberty: “The costs of occupational licensure are many. Not least is that it gives established businesses a stake in making government more powerful and invasive.” And am I the only one who interprets the bill as aimed at Craigslist and at sharing-economy interfaces that match odd jobs with persons willing to do them, even if it is not announced as such? More on the law from Steven Greenhut (who was on the story before I was).

“SawStop suit stopped”

Last month federal district judge Claude Hilton dismissed an antitrust suit filed against rival makers of table saws by SawStop, a company that has patented a table saw with innovative safety features. “Hilton’s ruling, while a blow to SawStop, has no legal bearing on the company’s efforts to get the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require the use of their technology on most table saws sold in the U.S.” Trial lawyers at Boies Schiller and elsewhere have also filed numerous product liability suits against makers of conventional saws; many saw users prefer to go on buying conventional saws, which are much less expensive, in preference to using the SawStop system [David Frane, Tools of the Trade, background; earlier]

June 19 roundup

  • Heeding union and legacy air carriers, Congress nixes cheap flights to Europe [W.R. Mead/American Interest, Marc Scribner/CEI]
  • Kneecapping the opposition: lawprof wants to yank trade associations’ tax exemption [CL&P]
  • “Connecticut Supreme Court rules against man who got drunk and fell in bonfire” [Legal NewsLine]
  • Making reform of big-city government a conservative cause [Scott Beyer]
  • Judge: Pipe maker can sue qui tam law firm over press release calling products defective [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • British insurer group calls for action, says fraudulent accident claims up 18% in year [Insurance Journal]
  • Long, detailed look at forces behind the madness that is the San Francisco housing market [Kim-Mai Cutler, TechCrunch in April]

Environment roundup

  • Coming to other towns soon: new stormwater regs ban car wash fundraisers at schools in Arlington, Va. [ArlNow]
  • Krugman hides the ball on coal-fired utility regs [David Henderson]
  • Coming in September: book on Chevron/Ecuador case by Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Paul M. Barrett [Business Roundtable]
  • Simplified narrative of “business versus environmental regulation” obscures so much [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]
  • Environmental disclosure panel from Vermont Law School “Disclosure Debates” [video, summary by Caitlin Stanton for VLR’s Environmental Health, links to all videos, background]
  • California: “Attorney General Posts 2013 Proposition 65 Settlement Numbers” [Cal Biz Lit]
  • “Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson” [Cato panel with Andrew Morriss, Richard Tren]

Regulators, lawsuits attack Uber and Lyft

Taxi regulators and taxi operators join to conspire against the consumer interest [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today; Matthew Feeney, Cato (including link to Cato podcast), more (Illinois, Maryland, Australia, and an ADA complaint in Texas)] “Austin, Texas, Impounds Cars Because Their Drivers Were Giving People Lifts” [Brian Doherty, Reason]

Update June 11: Demanding a stop to consumer-driven Uber — but inadvertently making the most eloquent case for it — London black cab drivers are barricading key intersections today, and Paris taximen are deliberately driving airport fares at snail’s pace. [Lara Prendergast, The Spectator]