Why would the D.O.E. know anything at all about Zoe Industries? The Department of Energy regularly, and randomly tests new plumbing fixtures that are bought and sold in the U.S., and a particular shower head product that Zoe Industries designs allegedly didn’t measure up to federal standards.
The U.S. federal government requires all new shower heads to possess what is known as an “O-ring” flow restrictor mechanism within the shower head that - as its’ name implies – reduces the flow of water and presumably reduces water consumption. And while all of Zoe Industries’ shower heads have the proper O-ring mechanisms in them, the Department of Energy believed that, in one particular case, the O-ring was “too easy to remove” during a test.
Schweikert got to work, investigating the D.O.E.’s case against Zoe Industries. Fortunately, Zoe Industries was able to recently “settle” the complaint against them by their government, by paying a much smaller fine – just slightly under $30,000.00. But this happened after the company had engaged in over a year’s worth of “discussions” and “negotiations” with the D.O.E., and after the company had accrued over a year’s worth of legal bills to defend themselves against the D.O.E.
For his part, Congressman Schweikert also shot-back legislatively, authoring and passing an Amendment to a Department of Energy funding bill that would forbid the D.O.E. from spending any of its funds on testing shower heads. This restriction on how the D.O.E. spends its’ money likely won’t hold up in the Democrat-controlled Senate, but it nonetheless got the D.O.E’s attention-after its’ passage the D.O.E. was on the telephone to Congressman Schweikert expressing “concern” that there had been a “misunderstanding.”
So did the D.O.E. extort Zoe Industries? Clearly, an agency of our federal government used its own brute force to extrapolate money out of the pockets of a private citizen. And the growing fear among business owners is that instances like this are only a “sneak preview” of things to come, when the I.R.S. begins policing individuals and companies for alleged Obamacare compliance violations.
And the word “alleged” is very important here. One need not have violated the law at all – but if your government alleges that you have, you either must pay the fine that your government is demanding, or be prepared to run-up potentially massive bills paying Attorneys to represent you and fight on your behalf.
This is why our economy is stagnant right now. The President who claims he is saving us from oppressive healthcare bills, is the same President whose Administration is comfortable fining a small plumbing supply shop owner nearly half a million dollars. American businesses are living in fear of American government, and businesses owners are not in a position (financially or otherwise) to take more risks and try to grow and expand – they are “tapped out” just trying to survive.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.