Conor Norris, Edward Timmons: It shouldn’t be illegal for Florida barbers to make house calls

Mom cuts baby hair with scissors home, hairstyle
It is an example of regulations that go too far when trying to protect consumer safety.

Florida has made great strides removing the unnecessary barriers to employment the last two years, but COVID-19 has exposed one missed area—rules preventing barbers from giving haircuts outside of their shops.

Last year’s licensing reform bill contained a provision allowing cosmetology services to be performed outside of salons in Florida. Barbers, however, did not have that option.

Sen. Linda Stewart and Rep. Daisy Morales have recognized this inconsistency and proposed a bill that allows barbers to make house calls. Currently, barbers can give haircuts outside their shop for clientele with limited mobility. SB 1176 would change this and give barbers the ability to offer haircuts outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar location.

Eliminating this requirement will spur market innovation. Barbers will be permitted to open mobile barbershops, going straight to consumers in convenient locations. Right now, barbers would be breaking the law if they provided this kind of service.

The current restriction is an example of regulations that go too far when trying to protect consumer safety. In an attempt to ensure consumers receive high-quality haircuts, it reduces the choices available to consumers.

In normal times, these regulations may be annoying for consumers, but during COVID-19 the cost of strict regulations became much more apparent. We should allow barbers to respond to those changes.

Now that Florida has reopened after the business closures in response to COVID-19, cosmetologists were able to adapt to new needs and worries in ways that barbers could not. Cosmetologists had the ability to offer hairstyling in new ways and in different locations. Now, barbers in Florida have the chance to join cosmetologists, and the barbers in 33 other states are able to offer haircuts outside of barbershops.

Licensing laws are designed to protect consumers from potentially harmful services. The laws come with consequences though. Licensing increases costs for consumers and makes it more difficult for people to enter professions, especially low-income workers.

Also, there is little evidence that licensing improves quality.

The Florida barbering regulations highlight another cost of occupational licensing laws: decreased entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs make consumers better off by finding new ways to meet their needs, like mobile barbershops.

The process of obtaining a license can be long and costly. For instance, to become a barber in Florida, one must complete a 1000-hour training course, pass a barbering exam, and pay around $200 in fees. These requirements create roadblocks for an aspiring barber with a new idea.

Licensing requirements also stifle innovation. Best practices might be encouraged, but entrepreneurs and their new ideas may never materialize. Select groups like single parents, busy professionals, or the elderly could benefit from nonstandard services designed specifically to meet their needs.

Allowing barbers to join cosmetologists and provide services outside of permanent shops, whether in homes or in mobile barbershops, makes sense. It gives barbers the ability to practice in new ways to meet consumers’ changing needs. Florida continues to be a national leader in removing unnecessary regulations, and SB 1176 would continue this trend.

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Conor Norris is a research analyst and Edward Timmons is director of the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation. Timmons is also a professor of economics at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

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