Legislation Is Introduced to Stop Manufacturers From Getting a Veto on Consumer Product Safety Alerts
By Remington A. Gregg, Public Citizen
Today, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the Safety Hazard and Recall Efficiency (SHARE) Information Act. This legislation would repeal a dangerous provision of Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, which gives product manufacturers effective veto-power over the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) ability to release critical health and safety information about dangerous products to the public.
The CPSC is essentially prevented from naming a hazardous product or its maker without first giving the company a chance to contest the accuracy and fairness of the information that the agency wishes to release. Companies routinely use this statutory requirement to simply veto the release of any information that refers to the company or product. If the CPSC decides to overrule the company and release the information, Section 6(b) gives the manufacturer the right to go to federal court to stop the release, which forces the agency into lengthy and expensive litigation and delays the release of safety information to the public still further. The inevitable result is that the CPSC is forced to issue vague warnings that fail to prevent avoidable injuries and deaths or issue no information at all.
Section 6(b) ties the hands of the CPSC, which has had tragic real-world consequences.
Last year, Consumer Reports found that the CPSC knew that the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play and similar products were linked the infant deaths, but failed to inform the public about the risks of these specific products. If the agency had sought to “name names,” it could have been pulled into protracted litigation, which would have further delayed the release of safety information to parents. Rather than risk these delays, in May 2018, the CPSC issued a “consumer alert” – essentially a press release – that cautioned parents against the hazards of allowing babies to sleep unrestrained in “inclined sleep products.” Busy, sleep-deprived parents did not realize that this generic term referred to a specific product that might already be in their homes. As of January 2020, these infant inclined sleep products have been linked to 73 deaths.
The 6(b) provision not only muzzles the CPSC from releasing specific safety information, it prevents journalists, consumer advocates, and government watchdogs from obtaining information about the agency’s continual failures to get dangerous products out of our homes. A recent Public Citizen report found that 6(b)’s restrictions are time consuming and waste money that could be better spent keeping consumers safe.
6(b)’s restrictions are particularly dangerous because of the CPSC’s vast jurisdiction. The consumer watchdog is responsible for ensuring that more than 15,000 products are safe – including toys, household chemicals, furniture and all-terrain vehicles.
No other health and safety agency is burdened with an onerous requirement that blocks the release of important safety information to the public.
In addition to Public Citizen, the following organizations support the SHARE Information Act: Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Kids in Danger, and Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).