Consumer Reports published a scathing article that called into question the continued viability of a consumer law that only serves to protect companies that make defective or dangerous goods. Consumer Reports article addresses the Fisher-Price Rock N’ Play sleeper recall and the Kids II recall campaigns both announced in April of 2019. However, Consumer Reports’ criticisms have broader application than these dangerous children’s products. The article calls into question the speed with which the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, should act when alerted to the presence of lethal products on the consumer market.
According to Consumer Reports, the CPSC can protect manufacturers of defective products consistent with federal laws and regulations. The CPSC can refuse to disclose the identity of manufacturers of defective products in reports and even in disclosures supposedly complying with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The CPSC must contact the company whose information is sought and seek permission to name the company in documents. Notwithstanding, there are circumstances in which the CPSC can disclose the company’s name. However, experts say that the agency rarely takes that route because doing so leads to lawsuits. Lawsuits hamstring the agency even further and tap its already limited resources. Therefore, the CPSC tries to avoid costly and time-consuming legal actions.
Advocates for consumer safety claim that the CPSC needs to respond more rapidly to reports of deadly consumer products. The agency has the authority to investigate and order a recall of a dangerous product. But, as in the case of the inclined sleepers and many other deadly consumer products, the CPSC allowed too many accidents to occur before taking remedial action. The agency’s slow response probably cost lives consumer advocates argue. Experts say that one way to increase the speed with which the CPSC can respond to complaints is to remove the disclosure impediments from federal consumer protection laws.
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