In our last post, we began a discussion about a potential U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) decision which has the American manufacturing community up in arms. As we previously noted, the CPSC is currently bound by Section 6b of the Consumer Product Safety Act. However, the agency is considering a change to the way it treats that section.
At present, the CPSC gives businesses 10 days to review any language it wishes to release regarding defective product investigations. This time lapse weakens the agency’s ability to get product safety news out to the public quickly. In addition, the CPSC tends to say very little about defective or dangerous product investigations until they are complete, given that revealing significant information could make the agency vulnerable to claims that it is being misleading or somehow inaccurate.
In an effort to bring more transparency to defective product investigations and to keep the public abreast of critical safety news as soon as possible, the CPSC is considering shortening the 10-day notice timeline it gives to businesses regarding investigation announcements.
The National Association of Manufacturers did not take the news well. It released a letter stating that, “We are deeply concerned about this new initiative. Any announcement by the CPSC that a product is “under investigation” will have a substantial and negative impact on the reputation of the product, its manufacturer and those in its distribution chain. Such a statement by the agency charged with protecting the public will lead to unfounded publicity, unplanned inquiries to both the CPSC and the company from consumers, warranty claims and lawsuits.”
The CPSC has insisted that the same protections currently afforded to companies under investigation will remain in place; the agency just wants to speed up the process for the benefit and safety of consumers.
It is important to protect the rights of businesses whose products are under investigation. However, it is also critical that an agency charged with ensuring the safety of the public is allowed to do its duty. Hopefully the CPSC will move forward with its proposed change and both elements will be honored.