A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate would make it easier for American consumers to seek redress from foreign manufacturers in U.S. courts. The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009, co-sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), would require foreign manufacturers to retain a business representative in at least one state where the company does significant business, and where it could be served legal papers. Current laws provide loopholes in the legal system that allow foreign manufacturers often to avoid liability for harmful or poorly made products. The proposed bill would not only ensure legal means by which such manufacturers may be held accountable, but it also evens the playing field for U.S. companies facing similar suits. The consumer groups Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America both support the bill.

The bill has been proposed in light of the number of homes affected by defective Chinese drywall, which is largely manufactured by foreign companies. But the effect of the bill, if passed into law, would have a much wider effect on consumer redress than just Chinese drywall suits.

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