New hope to warn consumers about dangerous products
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) now says it wants to do more to warn consumers about hazardous products that have a history of hurting people or causing damage in homes. The CPSC voted to explore ways to inform the public about dangerous products such as washing machines that catch fire or treadmills that suddenly stop and throw people off. Under the current law — the infamous 6(b) — the CPSC can’t cite products or companies by name without jumping through legal hoops and giving the company an opportunity to file a lawsuit to block the warning.
CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric last week noted the CPSC is the only federal safety agency that operates with this type of restriction. “As long as 6(b) remains in law, the CPSC cannot adequately inform the public of unreasonable risk of injury associated with products that are often already in consumers’ homes,” he said.
Giving the CPSC more authority is exactly what we called for two weeks ago in our report, Safe At Home, which outlined case after case of the CPSC receiving dozens or hundreds of incident reports from consumers, hospitals, coroners or other officials about a particular product but being unable to warn the public.
This is a good first step, if it happens. But it wouldn’t replace the need for Congress to repeal this section of the law that restricts the CPSC’s ability to warn consumers. Passage of the Sunshine in Product Safety Act, or something like it, would benefit consumers tremendously.