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Remarks on Signing Into Law the Consumer Protection Act Amendments

September 20, 1977

I'm glad to see there's a lot of interest in this legislation. It's a great pleasure for me to meet with all of you this morning to sign H.R. 5294, which is a fair debt collection bill.

And before I sign this legislation, I would particularly like to thank Senator Proxmire and Senator Riegle, who did so much hard work on this, and Congressmen Reuss, Annunzio, Wylie, and others behind me, who fought a very difficult fight--very close in the House, very overwhelming in the Senate--to get this legislation into law.

This is the first consumer bill that I've had the opportunity to sign, and it's one of the first times, I think, in the history of our country when a consumer bill has been signed here at the White House. [Laughter] But I believe it's important for me as President to indicate my strong interest in this legislation.

It's not a minor matter to treat consumers fairly in this country. And if there's one major gap in what has been accomplished by my predecessors in the White House and by previous Congresses, it is in the protection of consumers. I hope that this is the first of a series of bills that I'll be able to sign here on the White House lawn.

I believe that we need to pursue the opportunity for consumers to be represented before the agencies of the Federal Government which determine their right to a fair opportunity in our economic structure. I hope that we'll have a chance to enhance the use of responsible class action suits. And above all, I hope that I'll have a chance to sign into law an act creating the consumer protection agency, which I believe is of very great importance to our country.

The deliberate misinformation that's been promulgated about this legislation is disheartening to me. And I hope that the Members of Congress who have already shown their courage in protecting consumers against what is often very strong pressure will again renew their effort to pass this law which will create the agency that I've described.

We now have consumer protection scattered so diversely throughout the Federal Government that it's impossible to make it effective. And it would be a great saving in taxpayers' money; it would be a great saving in the wasted efforts of public employees; and it would also be a great step forward in letting American people know that our free enterprise system can be fair--to implement this agency in the future.

This bill assures that collection procedures are fair. Testimony that was given during the hearings on this bill showed that quite often innocent consumers-some of whom had even been misidentified as debtors--were harassed by profane language, by false statements made to them directly or by telephone, by calls after midnight to disturb a family, by threats which were contrary to the law, by alleging that consumers were violating the law when in fact they weren't. And these practices will now be made illegal among about 5,000 collection agencies, most of which are honest and law-abiding and do a proper job; some of which, though, need to be corrected. About $5 billion a year are collected by these agencies. And this is a great step forward in indicating to the American people that the Congress believes that consumers need to be treated fairly.

So, because of these reasons and many others, I congratulate the Members of the House and Senate behind me, who represent many others, and express my congratulations to the consumers of America and my own pride in being able to sign this legislation, which is a great step forward.

Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. at the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, H.R. 5294 is Public Law 95-109, approved September 20.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Consumer Protection Act Amendments Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242154

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