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NAM weakened accountability for its members

We’ve had a lot to say recently about Michael Baroody, President Bush’s nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Today, Public Citizen released a report that shows just how poor a choice he is for such a critical agency.

Last year, while Baroody was running the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) lobbying and advocacy efforts, NAM and its allies pressed the CPSC to weaken the agency’s primary enforcement regulation, which has been responsible for more than 80 percent of the agency’s fines since 1997, about $33 million.  NAM members and affiliates have paid more than half of those penalties, about $18 million in fines.

The safeguard in question requires companies to report when they find out about dangerous products defects.  It helps the agency decide when a recall is needed.

The report describes a number of cases where manufacturers allegedly defied the requirements.  Graco Children’s Products paid a record $4 million penalty in 2005, settling charges that it failed to report numerous possible defects in its products, which killed six babies and caused injuries including skull fractures, concussions and broken bones in others.  General Electric’s vice chairman is on NAM’s board.  It paid $1 million for not reporting possible defects and problems with some of its dishwashers, despite knowing about more than 100 incidents, including nearly 50 fires, between 1992 and 1998.

It seems simple enough – consumers, especially parents, should be informed when merchandise they purchased is dangerous.  Especially if children are getting killed, companies shouldn’t be allowed to bury reports that their products are dangerous.  But the changes that NAM and its allies sought will almost certainly do just that, reducing the number of reports from companies, leading to more deaths and injuries due to defective products.

The upshot is that a Baroody confirmation would put consumers in harm’s way while NAM member companies remain unaccountable.

Tell your senators that Baroody is a bad choice for consumer safety.