Information Disclosure and Labels
Public and private standards-setters also appear to have different positions concerning information disclosure and warning labels. Government sometimes relies on warning labels as its major regulatory strat-
egy. The woodstove labeling rule relies exclusively on information disclosure as a regulatory strategy. The agency defended this standard over the private alternatives on the grounds that its provisions had stronger language and were more likely to be effective. Labeling provisions were also a significant part of the gas space heater rule. In both cases the label was intended to change people's behavior. The private sector is less enamored of information disclosure and does not share in the public sector's penchant for trying to change people's behavior. There is a sense among many private standards-writers that warning labels should not even be included in standards. Historically, many of these organizations shied away from warning labels entirely. The labeling and marking requirements for the gas space heater filled less than a page in the 1963 version of Z21.11.2. There are almost five pages in the 1983 version. Warning labels and other instructions have become more prominent in private standards, but they tend to be written by lawyers who do not otherwise participate in the standards-writing process. A representative on AGA's unvented space heater committee takes labeling questions to in-house counsel at his firm before attending meetings. The Standards Department at UL oversees the warning and labeling provisions in all UL standards, but the engineers do everything else. These provisions are added more to provide a defense against lawsuits than to prevent injuries. It is inconceivable that UL would respond to a problem it considered serious by changing the labeling requirements. Only the government seems intent on what a former CPSC commissioner refers to as a fool's errand: trying to change the behavior of millions of consumers.