The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been charged with the duty of protecting American consumers against dangerous or defective products. The CPSC is responsible for regulating recalls in response to faulty items in the marketplace.
According to Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state, the CPSC is failing in its duty. According to her minority party role on the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Cantwell alleges the CPSC has improperly deferred to the manufacturing industry in several major instances.
She points to a recently issued report by the committee’s minority staff, which details three separate recalls and safety warnings affecting people throughout the nation. The B.O.B. jogging stroller, made by Britax, is reported to have had 200 incidents of wheels coming off, causing injuries. Fisher-Price, manufacturer of the Rock ‘n’ Play inclined infant sleeper, eventually was forced to issue a recall for its product after it was linked to the death of more than 30 babies.
Additionally, the report highlighted what it saw as inadequacies in the agency’s handling of known hazards involving residential elevators.
The committee’s report argues that the CPSC responded too slowly to the identified risks posed by these defective products and that when it did eventually respond, it often did so in a way that financially benefited these companies.
For example, in the case of the Britax jogging stroller, CPSC leadership is alleged to have ignored staff suggestions for an immediate recall. Following a subsequent settlement between Britax and the agency, the company offered the nearly 500,000 affected stroller owners the choice between a replacement part and a 20% discount on a new stroller. It did not replace or refund the cost of the strollers.
Last April, Fisher-Price, in conjunction with the CPSC, eventually announced that its infant sleeper had been linked to 10 deaths. However, a report from Consumer Reports alleged that the number actually was 32. It wasn’t until the American Academy of Pediatrics urged an immediate recall that the agency followed suit and required a recall.
The committee report also alleges that the agency shifted the blame of residential elevator defects from the manufacturers to families and state regulatory agencies.
Senator Cantwell asserts that consumers should be able to have confidence in the safety of the products they buy and that defective and dangerous products warrant a proper and adequate response from the CPSC.