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Okay, so there’s a whole lot of controversy rising up about Etsy’s rule regarding claims on products. It’s gotten so much attention that there are articles on sites from Patheos Pagan to The Washington Post to Gizmodo. If you haven’t heard anything about it yet, I’d be surprised.
In a nutshell: Etsy is cracking down on any listings that claim the product being sold will have any effect on a person whatsoever. That affects every seller on the site. It does hit metaphysical sellers and bath & body sellers more than anyone, but it is not specifically targeted against metaphysical sellers. The addition of a section in Etsy’s terms that bans most spells however, has added to the fire and the misconception that spiritual item sellers are being targeted. (Etsy being sued earlier this year for allowing items that make false claims doesn’t help.)
The thing is, this isn’t an attack against the metaphysical community. It’s government bullshit trickling down into sales venues. It’s all stemming from the FDA rule that you can’t make claims in products. Any product, consumable or not, that makes a claim to change a person in any way, is considered a drug and must be regulated. Soap that helps acne is considered a drug. Massage oil that eases stress is considered a drug. A gemstone that brings mental clarity is considered a drug. It’s stupid, but since the public never pays attention to what’s going into law, that’s what’s on the books.
Here’s the thing: This is much more than a metaphysical seller issue. This affects pretty much every home business that sells anything that would help someone in any way. Home remedies, herbal remedies, soaps, oils, incense, lotions, and the list goes on and on. This was never about Pagans or any other faith, it’s about the government trying to run all the little guys out of business under the guise of protecting the public.
As I mentioned in an article last week, people should be intelligent enough to make their own decisions and accept the consequences. Not every product works as advertised, even the ones that are approved by the FDA. We as consumers should know this, and instead of suing the seller or maker, realize that perhaps we made a bad choice and need to do more research or try a different product. We do not need the government “protecting” us from supposed evil. And let’s face it, contrary to what is becoming popular belief, sellers of home remedies and metaphysical items aren’t who the public needs to worry about. Most of those folks are legitimate. The ones you have to worry about are the big ones that advertise on television and in magazines with their unproven male enhancement pills and diet pills that can kill you and shit like that.
Another point that I’m going to reiterate is that any item which heals or helps a person based on energy rather than direct physical effect is considered a “mind-body healing” item, and is not regulated by the FDA. Metaphysical item sellers actually have a fully legal loophole and are therefore far better off than all the folks who sell bath, body and remedy items. I hate to say it, but the Pagan community needs to get their heads out of their asses and realize that this is not about them, it’s about small business being crushed by unfair laws. If they’d put some energy into questioning the FDA and thinking about the bigger picture, a lot more would happen than just whining about how they can’t sell a spell on Etsy.
What people really need to do is find a way to get the FDA rule changed. There has to be some way that sellers of handcrafted goods can continue to sell items that make health claims without spending fortunes that they don’t have on the process of gaining FDA approval. I would think that a disclaimer, as you see on lots of products on television, would be enough. Caveat emptor folks, let the buyer beware. While I believe in reasonable measures to prevent fraud, I also believe that customers should use their brains and learn about products before they buy them. If the seller discloses the ingredients, methods and purpose of an item, it shouldn’t be that hard for the buyer to make an informed decision before purchase.
If there are any lawyers out there who read this, I’d love to hear any input on how sellers of handmade goods could continue to sell items, with the benefit claims intact, without breaking the law. Is there some clause somewhere that would allow sellers to place a disclaimer on their item and be safe? Are any products other than mind-body healing items that are exempt? I’m also curious to know what it would take to challenge the law and get it changed to allow small businesses to continue operating without stripping their listings of all the information that would actually make it sell.