How does the federal government shutdown affect consumers?

Guest post by Daniel Colbert (2L, Georgetown Law)

How does
the shutdown affect consumers?

The short
answer is that the shutdown likely won’t hurt consumers as much as it will hurt
, Head
students, and panda-cam enthusiasts, but, still, it will put a significant damper on
the government’s ability to protect consumers. Here are some details about how
the shutdown will affect consumer agencies:

some good news. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not subject to the
appropriations process, so it will remain
, along with the Federal Reserve, the FDIC,
and the OCC. The SEC is funded by Congressional appropriations, but it has
enough funds carried over from the previous year to remain fully open for a
few weeks
. USDA meat and grain inspections will continue. And, of course, the healthcare
created by the Affordable Care Act will
begin to open today, completely unaffected by the shutdown. (The insurance purchase in those exchanges will become effective on January 1, 2014.)

Now for
the bad news. The FDA will continue to issue high-risk recalls, but routine
inspections will be suspended. FDA reviews of new drugs will also be delayed. The USDA will need to delay some major
crop reports
, which typically affect the price of
corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. The Federal Housing Administration will also
underwriting and approving
loans to first-time
homebuyers and low-to-moderate income borrowers. The Federal Trade Commission
has already replaced its website with a static splash page informing consumers that they cannot file complaints or
sign up for the Do Not Call list, and that FOIA requests will not be processed.
The FTC will continue to review
antitrust matters
, but with a smaller staff than
usual. The Department of Justice will
about 15% of its employees and will seek
to postpone civil litigation to the extent possible (though criminal
prosecutions will be deemed “essential”). Notably, the DOJ has already asked
for a stay
in its antitrust suit over the merger
of US Airways and American Airlines, though it has said that antitrust actions will
even if no delays are granted.

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