Licensing Protects Incumbents, Not Consumers

Scott Gustafson's Arizona Economics blog points to another example of a local regulatory body, in this case the Structural Pest Commission, bravely protecting incumbent competitors from new competition.  As background, you should know that though we don't have nearly as many pests as most places, the ones we do have (e.g. scorpions) are essentially unkillable with legal chemical technologies.  The best you can hope for is to tighten up your hose to keep them out.  And we have these lovely rodents called roof rats, sort of like squirrels on steroids who are not cute, who like to come in and take up residence in attics and walls.   So a lot of pest control here is about putting up screens over vents and setting traps rather than spraying chemicals.

As retirees go, Rich Hanley seems like a decent enough guy. He's a former cop who came to town a few years ago. He obeys the law. He pays his taxes. In 2004, he started up a little business, repelling roof rats.

Specifically, he covers vents with steel mesh so the little fellas can't come calling. 

Once, we would have applauded such enterprise. Now, we issue cease-and-desist orders. 

Yep, it's true. My favorite state bureaucrats over at the Structural Pest Control Commission have decided that Hanley has violated the law... 

"The problem is his advertising," says Lisa Gervase, executive director of the agency... 

The pest-control cops launched a seven-week probe, concluding that Hanley can do the work. He just can't tell people why he's doing the work. Thus, his sales pitch - "Keep birds and rodents from invading your home" - has to go. 

Gervase said the state would have no problem if Hanley says he's covering vents to keep leaves out. "But if he's advertising that he can keep pests from invading your home, that's pest control, and you need a license for pest control."

Its nice, I guess, when you trade group can get the government to use its coercive power to do you work for you.  Much more on licensing as anti-competitive behavior rather than consumer protection.