According to a new report posted on cbs4indy.com, a year following the introduction of the “Sunshine in Product Safety Act,” lawmakers appear to be failing to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission additional authority. The Sunshine in Product Safety Act, which Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sponsored, would repeal a law restricting the Consumer Product Safety Commission from informing the public about dangerous products. Under “Section 6(b),” the Consumer Product Safety Commission is prevented from publicizing information about products or identifying a manufacturer until the commission has taken “reasonable steps” to make sure the information is correct and appropriate.
Right now, manufacturers have the opportunity to respond prior to the release of product warnings, and the CPSC may not divulge any information for fifteen days, even when serious safety risks are reported. Depending on the issues, manufacturers are allowed to issue a voluntary recall. However, on some occasions, the manufacturer denies the allegations. In cases of rebuttals, CPSC must take the manufacturer to court and raise its concerns before a judge.
According to CPSC Spokesperson Pamela Springs, taking manufacturers to court can take several years and leaves consumers at risk of injury or death.
Tragically, there are many situations when the CPSC was forced into silence concerning dangerous products. One very public example was the Fisher-Price Rock and Play sleepers recall. Fisher-Price began selling the products in 2009. In 2012, the U.S. government admitted that it had received several reports about infant fatalities in the sleepers. The product was not recalled until 2019, leading to dozens of infant deaths, and the company generated $200 million in revenue.
Congress founded the Consumer Product Safety Commission back in 1972. The agency was considered an independent government agency and was put in charge of protecting consumers. At the time, the CPSC was assigned to 15,000 products that were not being regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.
In 1981, Congress amended Section 6(b), giving manufacturers “veto” powers to manufacturers and thus limiting the CPSC’s authority.
Safety advocates think the law applies solely to the CPSC due to its setup. Unlike the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Food and Drug Administration, which are designed to protect the public, the CPSC is run by five commissioners who are empowered to make important decisions.
Records indicate the Consumer Product Safety Commission also functions on a fraction of the budget the NHTSA and the FDA do. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is not well funded. The FDA has a $6 billion annual budget. The NHTSA has a $1 billion annual budget. However, the CPSC has a yearly budget of only $135 million.
Experts believe that by repealing Section 6(b), the public will be safer since the agency can move faster to require product safety recalls. The agency’s budget should also be increased to a more appropriate level. This way, the CPSC can handle the unsafe products that are currently on store shelves but cannot warn the public about. Moreover, people should be able to report dangerous products to the CPSC. SaferProducts.gov maintains a list of 50,650 complaints, but the list does not include product safety complaints already submitted to the manufacturer.
CPSC Commissioner Robert S. Adler called for Section 6(b) to be repealed back in 2014. Adler believes that Section 6(b) inappropriately makes the CPSC “a national data nanny of vital consumer product safety information.” He also states that Section 6(b) ‘s unmanageable practices and unnecessary delays place consumers’ lives at risk.
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