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Consumer Reports: Archaic Anti-Transparency Law Impedes Recall of Dangerous and Unsafe Products

Consumer Reports says that a decades-old law works to obscure the facts around dangerous products, hampering the efforts to get those products recalled and out of the hands of unsuspecting consumers. The organization says that this provision “endangered children and kept parents in the dark about the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper,” which we posted about a few weeks back.

Consumer Reports says that its safety experts became privy to information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regarding 19 infant fatalities involving the Rock ‘n Play and similar products made by Kids II in data it received from the CPSC. Normally, information like company and product names is redacted by the CPSC in such reports due to Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act that acts essentially as a gag order to protect companies’ identity. This time the info was not redacted, due to a CPSC error.

Consumer advocates and some pediatricians had been voicing concern about this infant sleeper for years, with many of them noting that babies should sleep on a flat surface on their backs, not inclined, for their own safety. Absent any real proof of the fatalities linked to the Rock ‘n Play, however, the sleepers remained top sellers on the market.

After receiving the unredacted data from the CPSC, Consumer Reports tracked down the various lawsuits related to the infant sleeper and ultimately identified more than a dozen more deaths related to the Fisher-Price sleeper, and found that Fisher-Price allegedly knew of 32 children that died while using it.

It was only after Consumer Reports published its findings in early April and the American Academy of Pediatrics urged the company to recall the product that Fisher-Price initiated the recall of 4.7 million sleepers. Parents, including Sara Thompson of Pennsylvania, whose 3-month-old baby died in one in 2011, say the recall should have happened years ago.

Consumer Reports says that this chain of events calls attention to Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act. a controversial law that consumer advocates say protects manufacturers while putting consumers in harm’s way. Section 6(b) requires that the CPSC obtains the manufacturer’s permission prior to releasing any information that might reveal their identity. This applies even when a product has been reported to cause injury or death. It is unclear if any proposed legislation to revise 6(b) is on the table, although the issue has caught the attention of some lawmakers, says Consumer Reports.

Have You Been Harmed by an Unsafe Product?

This law illustrates one thing clearly; consumer protection laws often don’t do enough to keep the consumer safe. Companies cannot be relied upon to police themselves, but they can be held accountable when they bring faulty products to the market and someone is injured or dies as a result. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dangerous product, reach out to JML Law and our defective product liability attorney in Los Angeles at 818-610-8800. We are staunch advocates for consumer safety, and we will take on even the biggest companies to ensure you get the compensation to which you are entitled to your injuries.

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