When someone purchases an item, they assume that it is safe for them to use. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Recently, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been under scrutiny for its response to a number of dangerous product recalls.
The Safety Commission oversees product safety recalls. Their job is to keep consumers safe from unreasonable product hazards. As attorney Theodore L. DiSalvo of Kogan & DiSalvo, P.A. notes, “Recently, however, the way in which the Safety Commission handled product recalls involving companies such as Britax and Fisher-Price, gave rise to a review of the commission’s conduct.”
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is in charge of reviewing actions by the Safety Commission. The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, also known as the Review Committee, found that the Safety Commission showed inappropriate deference to industry in its report.
The Review committee cited that the commission’s approval of recalls enabled companies to reap benefits in their business as a result of the recalls. The remedies offered by the affected companies were often not refunds or free, safe products, but only discount coupons for a new product. As a result, the companies responsible for the recall were given the opportunity to generate more business.
For example, according to a 2018 settlement between Britax and the Safety Commission, Britax either had to offer a replacement part to the recalled stroller or a 20% discount for another Britax stroller. Almost half a million consumers were affected by the recall, which followed the reporting of approximately 200 instances of wheels detaching from a particular Britax stroller. Prior to the 2018 settlement being reached, the review committee’s report revealed that the Safety Commission did not issue an immediate recall following the nearly 200 stroller incident reports, some of which involved injuries.
A secondary issue is that the companies have no legal responsibility beyond issuing the recall notice of a product. This results in recalled, unsafe products still being in consumers’ possession, like daycare providers or parents. In 18 states, recalled products are banned, but elsewhere around the country, unsafe products can remain in consumers’ possession for a long time.
One suggestion, raised by Adam Garber, a consumer watchdog for the United States Public Interest Research Group, was that companies utilize targeted advertising to let people know about a recall. The thought is that since they have a lot of information about consumer habits, they can utilize this information to protect them and spread safety information. But since they are not legally required to enforce recalls, it will be hard to enact any changes of this nature until new legislation is passed.
Having to review many reports and address a large number of recalls is one of the main purposes of the Safety Commission. While consumer safety and efficient recalls with real relief could be determined differently by affected consumers, companies, and the Safety Commission, ultimately, a consumer should come home with a product that is safe.