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Too Cozy With Industry: Consumer Product Safety Commission Failing to Alert Consumers to Danger

April 11, 2018

Too Cozy With Industry: Consumer Product Safety Commission Failing to Alert Consumers to Danger

Public Citizen Testifies Amid Concerns About the Commission’s Conflict of Interest Issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should invest in technology and data to advance its mission and remove obstacles to releasing more public safety information, Public Citizen told the commission today.

Remington A. Gregg, Public Citizen’s counsel for civil justice and consumer rights, testified before the CPSC to urge the commission to enhance its online product safety database and update an agency rule to place consumer safety above protecting manufacturers.

Gregg urged the CPSC to work with Congress to eliminate a statute that restricts the CPSC from disclosing information to the public about specific products until the manufacturer or other authorized entity gives the agency permission. No other federal health and safety agency is bound by such a law. The law, Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, along with agency rules implementing the statute, requires the commission to negotiate with a manufacturer or company so that they can weigh in on – or even object to – product safety information before it’s disclosed to the public.

“While corporations try to block the release of vital safety information, people – including children – are being hurt by dangerous products still allowed on store shelves,” Gregg said.

The hearing comes as Public Citizen and the media highlight growing concerns that commissioners and senior agency staff are becoming too cozy with the industries they are regulating. Acting Chair Anne Marie Buerkle has consistently opposed strong health and safety regulations throughout her tenure on the commission. Dana Baiocco, who has been nominated to a seat on the commission, has spent her professional career defending corporations from product safety claims. And the agency’s new top lawyer previously worked for one of the nation’s leading makers of gasoline engines, that consistently has opposed stronger safety standards.

“Sadly, we see an agency that is increasingly more partisan, hiring senior staff with ties to industry, and a White House intent on nominating commissioners who seem eager to protect corporate interests, said Gregg. “The mission of the nation’s chief product safety agency is to protect consumers from unnecessary risk, injury and death – not do the industry’s bidding.”

Gregg also urged the CPSC to invest in improvements to SaferProducts.gov, an online database that allows the public to search for and report product safety hazards. And he encouraged the commission to make the database more visible to the public on social media and other platforms, and explore innovative ways to convey information about product recalls, among other modifications to the website.

In addition, the CPSC should implement recommendations that Public Citizen, the Consumer Federation of America and Kids in Danger submitted to the agency in June 2017 to make voluntary recalls more effective, Gregg said. The agency also should speed up its response time to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to ensure a timely response that is consistent with its statutory obligations.

Gregg’s full testimony can be found here.