The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a small independent regulatory agency established to help ensure that products sold in this country are safe. However, it’s often had to rely on cooperation from the companies that manufacture those products.
Further, there’s a statutory provision in the Consumer Product Safety Act that established the CPSC — Section 6(b) – that creates “unique restrictions that govern its public disclosure of information,” according to the CPSC’s fact sheet on the provision. The agency has to provide manufacturers over two weeks to reply to findings of safety issues before it can make them public.
Calls for the removal of Section 6(b) from the Consumer Product Safety Act
Some CPSC commissioners and members of Congress as well as safety advocates have called for the removal of Section 6(b) from the law. One commissioner didn’t mince words when asserting that “people die because of Section 6(b).”
Children’s toys are a particular concern. In 2020 alone, almost 150,000 children were brought to emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Nine were fatal. According to the CPSC, most toy-related deaths involve a child ingesting and choking on a small object that can come loose from the toy. Button batteries are a leading culprit. These can be found in many other items, including flashlights and watches, in addition to toys.
More than one piece of legislation is working its way through Congress that would give the CPSC more authority. One bill would eliminate Section 6(b) completely. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who supports the latter step, notes that the provision harms the CPSC’s ability to warn consumers about the ever-growing number of unsafe counterfeit toys flooding the market.
Is the CPSC beginning to assert more power?
In the last year, the CPSC has shown signs of getting more aggressive, with lawsuits against Amazon and Peloton. If enough consumers place pressure on Congress to pass laws that will strengthen the agency’s power, we could see a difference before the holiday season rolls around next year.
Meanwhile, if you or a loved one has been harmed by an unsafe product, you may be able to take civil legal action against the manufacturer. This can help you obtain compensation for expenses and damages and help highlight the dangers or inadequate labeling of a product.