A Consumer Reports article talks about a decades-old federal law that hides dangerous and defective products from consumers. This law came under scrutiny recently after Consumer Reports, by accident, discovered that more than 30 children had died after their parents and caregivers put them in Fischer Price Rock ‘n Play Sleepers and similar inclined rockers. The article says Consumer Reports only saw the information about the child deaths because of an error on the part of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which forgot to redact the company and product names in the reports they share.
As a result of the Consumer Reports article and pressure from safety advocates and pediatricians, Fisher-Price ended up recalling all of its inclined sleepers, about 4.7 million of them. Kids II, another manufacturer of similar products, recalled nearly 700,000 of its inclined child sleepers linked to five infant fatalities.
Pediatricians and safety advocates had been concerned about these products for many years now, noting that babies should be put to sleep flat on their backs, not on an incline, and free from restraints and soft bedding. However, without definitive information tying the infant deaths to the products, the sleepers remained on the market.
Law Works Against Consumer Safety
The tragic deaths of these children, which could have been avoided, show how much harm this controversial law has caused. The law, known as Section 6 (b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, requires the agency, in most cases, to get permission from product manufacturers before making their names public or any information that could reveal their identities – even in cases where a product is linked to injuries and deaths. When the CPSC does announce an alert or recall, companies can restrict the information that is released and negotiate the language that is used.
This law was crafted during the Reagan Administration and was in response to complaints that a company’s reputation could suffer unfairly if the CPSC did not give it a chance to review safety concerns before they were made public. It is important to note that other federal agencies don’t have similar restrictions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, does not have to get permission from food producers before disclosing their names publicly with alerts and recalls.
As product defect attorneys who fight for the rights of injured consumers and families of victims who have lost their lives as a result of dangerous and defective products, we call on lawmakers to modify this dangerous law, which prevents consumers from getting crucial, lifesaving information. Safeguarding corporations’ public image is not the CPSC’s job. Their job is to quickly and properly inform consumers about specific product dangers that could cause injuries and deaths. Had the agency done so in a timely manner with the infant inclined sleepers, we may have been able to prevent several of these tragic infant deaths.