Public Citizen Calls for Repealing Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress should repeal Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) because it delays the release of important product safety information to consumers, Public Citizen concluded in a report released today.
Section 6(b) gives manufacturers an effective veto over information released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the nation’s chief product safety regulator, and has contributed to avoidable injuries and deaths, Public Citizen found. The CPSC may not issue a safety warning that names the hazardous product or its maker without first giving the company a chance to contest the accuracy and fairness of that information.
In practice, companies frequently veto the CPSC’s attempt to mention their product by name. If the CPSC decides to release the information, Section 6(b) gives the manufacturer the right to go to federal court to stop the release, which forces the agency into lengthy litigation and delays the release of safety information to the public.
The agency’s typical workaround is to issue a vague statement, as it did in its spring 2019 Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper warning that “inclined sleep products” might be linked to infant deaths. In reality, a news report uncovered that Fisher-Price and the CPSC knew that the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper was linked to at least 19 infant deaths.
“No other federal health or safety agency gives companies the ability to muzzle them,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and author of the report. “The CPSC should not be stopped from releasing critical safety information that could protect our families from injury or death. Section 6(b) is a hurdle to doing so, and Congress has a responsibility to repeal it.”
A 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling extended Section 6(b)’s restrictions to apply to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act – preventing journalists, consumer advocates and government watchdogs from obtaining information about the agency’s continual failures to get dangerous products out of our homes. As the report shows, complying with these restrictions is time consuming and wastes money that could be spent on keeping consumers safe.