EXCITING THINGS HAVE happened in this city as a result of the efforts of Edith Barksdale Sloan, who was nominated by the president and recently confirimed by the Senate as the newest member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Though she has already moved into new quarters, her stay in local government - as director of the D.C. Office of Consumer Protection - will not be quickly forgotten. As a result of her leadership, for example, the District was the first city in the country to get rid of children's sleepware to reduce flammanility but is also a potential cause of cancer. The consumer office would up advising other city governments on how to do that job themselves. Two of the city's largest utilities, Washington Gas Light Company and PEPCO, were persuaded by the agency to continue service to lower-income households during the harsh winter of 1977 - even though many of those customers could not pay their bills. What's more, PEPCO will open offices of town in the next month, so that residents can conduct their business without making a special trip downtown. None of these things had even been thought of two years ago, before Mrs. Sloan assumed her local post.
Since her start in 1976, Mrs. Sloan has created an agency that has gained a national reputation fot its aid to consumers of all income groups. Due to the agency's efforts, hundreds of people have found automobile insurance, obtained satisfactory hearing aids, straighened out finance charges and the like. The office has also come up with such things as the "drug information compaign," in which drugstores encouraging comaprison shopping by displaying posters listing the 100 most commonly prescribed drugs, along with their prices and their generic or non-brand-name equivalent.
Before her departure, Mrs.Sloan gave Mayor Walter Washington a number of suggestions for laws that could provide even more protection for consumers. She proposed , for example, that the City Council prohibit certain "buy now, pay later" plans because a number of shoppers get bilked by merchants who can charged almost as much in interest payments as they do for the items themselves. Mrs.Sloan also suggested that rental agencies be closed checked to be sure that they advertise apartments and houses that actually exist. Consumer Protection is impressive - sufficiently so, it seems to us, to merit a special effort to see that her standard is maintained. The best tribute the mayor and the City Council can pay to Mrs.Sloan is to appoint and confirm someone who can continue to make that agency one of the best in city government.