The Controversial Law That Shields Manufacturers at the Expense of Consumers

by Terry Bryant

It’s a law that has been on the books since the Reagan era. Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the federal agency tasked with protecting consumers from unsafe products, to obtain permission from manufacturers to reveal their identities. Product names and any other related information that could reveal their identifies is also subject to this provision. This lack of transparency protects product manufacturers at the expense of consumers. Critics of the law, including some CPSC personnel, say it has been responsible for numerous injuries and deaths to product users.

As noted in a recent Consumer Reports article, Elliot Kaye, a CPSC commissioner and its former chairman, said at a House subcommittee hearing that the “anti-consumer safety and anti-transparency requirements” of the provision should be eliminated. “People die because of Section 6(b). It is that simple.”

Infant Deaths Related to Sleepers

Consumer Reports’ investigation into infant fatalities related to the Fisher-Price Rock n’ Play Sleeper and to rocking sleepers from the company Kids II exemplifies how dangerous 6(b) is to consumers. The investigation began with information inadvertently sent to Consumer Reports from the CPSC that revealed 19 infant deaths linked to the two manufacturers’ sleepers. Normally, manufacturer and product names would be hidden in reports shared by the CPSC, but in this case, they were not. This mistake on the part of the agency led Consumer Reports to probe further and discover that an additional dozen children had died because of the products. Fisher-Price later confirmed that it knew of at least 32 infant fatalities tied to its sleeper. After Consumer Reports published these findings in April, Fisher-Price recalled all 4.7 million of the Rock ‘n Play Sleepers. Kids II recalled approximately 700,000 sleepers.

The revelations from this investigation beg the question: How many of these infants would still be alive if the danger of these specific products had been revealed to the public sooner? How many deaths would have been prevented if the products had faced stronger scrutiny and recalls when the initial deaths became known? According to Consumer Reports, its investigation found that the CPSC knew the product was connected to fatalities several years before the recall was issued.

Designed to Protect Manufacturers’ Reputations

Provision 6(b) was essentially put in place after manufacturers complained that their reputations would suffer if they weren’t given the chance to review the CPSC’s product concerns before the information went public. As a result, CPSC investigations into potentially lethal products and negotiations with manufacturers about what information to reveal involve a lot of back and forth and can take years, during which dangerous products are still being sold on the consumer market.

Other examples of deadly products noted by Consumer Reports on which faster action should have been taken include:

  • IKEA dressers that were not recalled until 2016, even though they had been tied to deaths and injuries as early as 1989.
  • BOB Gear strollers that have been tied to dozens of injuries since 2012. While a potential fix to the problem was recently offered, the product still hasn’t been recalled.

Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about products they buy potentially injuring or killing them. But the sad reality is that until there is more transparency surrounding the manufacture of dangerous products, more injuries and tragedies are likely to occur.

Contact a Houston Product Liability Lawyer

If you’ve been injured or a loved one has died from a defective product, the experienced product liability attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law are here to assist you. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.