Yesterday on Indie Business Radio, I interviewed Lauren Sheahan of LaurEss Cosmetics in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lauren is a wife, mother and Indie Beauty Network member who started her business in 2003. She rents a manufacturing facility in Green Bay and between her, her husband and one woman, she has three employees. Lauren became a signer of the Compact For Safe Cosmetics in 2005. In my interview, she discussed her experiences as a Compact signer. I wanted to share some of the things Lauren told me on the show — things that are very disturbing to me. If you are a Compact signer, you may want to watch this video with an eye toward what questions you may want to try to ask CFSC in the conference call they have scheduled for today. After you watch the video, you can click here to open up a window to stream the entire interview.
Here are some of the things I found particularly disturbing:
1. Lauren gets no advance notice when her ingredients or products are “downgraded”. Lauren says she has to “babysit” the database because she gets no advance notice of when her ingredients or products are downgraded. She may log on one day and see a certain rating, then log on the next day and see another rating. She is not given any notice of changes to how her company is being represented to consumers, and when she asks for an explanation, she never gets one.
2. Lauren cannot oppose the studies used to substantiate the database. Lauren says that EWG and Campaign For Safe Cosmetics do not allow her to oppose or provide any balancing commentary with regard to the studies used to rate her company in advance. She is not told of the criteria used to determine how specific studies are chosen as authoritative, how much weight they are given vis a vis other studies, who pays for the studies and what studies, if any, were considered but not included when creating ingredient and product ratings. She is not allowed to post any comments to the database so that consumers have a more balanced view of her company. She’s limited to what they say she can say, and is at their mercy with regard to how her business is portrayed.
3. Lauren has been unable to get her company removed from the database. After trying many times, Lauren still can’t get her brand removed from the database. The database now says she’s not a Compact signer, but despite numerous written requests, she cannot get her brand name removed entirely.
I think it’s It’s unfair, even despicable, that an organization saying it’s trying to be helpful to small companies would allow unchallenged information to remain in their database, especially when their own Compact signer is not given an opportunity to challenge, appeal or oppose the information published.
4. Lauren got no advance notice from CFSC before introduction of H.R. 5786. As a Compact signer, you would think that Lauren and her colleagues would have been asked in advance for their thoughts and input on H.R. 5786. Believe it or not, they were not given any warning or information about what CFSC was doing behind their backs.
Lauren said she learned of the new legislation via FaceBook. Of course, this week, CFSC is hosting a call so Compact signers can ask questions about the bill.
How interesting to sponsor legislation affecting your own Compact signers, using information they provide to you for what they think are helpful reasons, and then ask them for their thoughts after the fact.
This lack of transparency is quite awful. This is not a situation where consumers share online input about the products they buy, as in the case of Yelp for example. This is a situation where special interest groups attracted small businesses to sign on to a cause we all agree with — safe cosmetics — and then proceeded to change the rules mid-game, and pull the rug out from under them. No notice. No opportunity to be heard. No chance to appeal.
And now, via H.R. 5786, they have convinced several lawmakers to introduce a bill that would give the federal government that same power.
Let me say that another way –
Imagine the United States government having this kind of unmitigated power over a private, family owned business which constitutes the only job a woman has to support herself and her children.
What do you think?