Schakowsky, Blumenthal & Rush Introduce Legislation To Bolster CPSC’s Power To Warn Americans About Dangerous Products In The Wake Of Peloton Reports

April 22, 2021
Press Release
The Sunshine in Product Safety Act would repeal CPSC’s regulatory constraints that have allowed companies like Peloton to delay the agency’s public warnings about dangerous products

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) introduced the Sunshine in Product Safety Act today to strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) ability to communicate vital health and safety information about potentially dangerous products to consumers without risking retaliation by the manufacturer. The bill comes in the wake of alarming reports that Peloton obstructed CPSC’s investigation into the safety of its Peloton Tread+ treadmill after injuries and a child’s death and hindered the Commission from being able to swiftly and adequately warn consumers about this unsafe equipment.

“For too long, Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act has severely restricted the CPSC’s ability to promptly warn people about dangerous products, leading to unnecessary deaths and injuries from products such as the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and the Peloton Tread+ treadmill,” said Schakowsky, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. “It gives manufacturers the power to decide if and when they are held accountable. The Sunshine in Product Safety Act will repeal section 6(b), saving lives and preventing injuries. I am proud to introduce this life-saving bill with my friends and colleagues Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Rush. “

“The Sunshine in Product Safety Act puts consumer safety first,” said Blumenthal, Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security. “CPSC must be able to move swiftly to warn Americans when products like the Peloton Tread+ and the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper pose a danger to them and their families. Yet current regulatory constraints allow companies to call the shots on how and when to notify the public about their hazardous products, keeping important safety information from the public. This bill will eliminate these constraints, restoring transparency to product safety for the sake of consumers.”

“It is wholly unacceptable that under current law, manufacturers can keep consumers in the dark about harmful and hazardous products,” said Rush, a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. “Simply put, Section 6(b) puts people’s lives at risk. I introduced legislation to amend Section 6(b) last Congress, and I am proud to join my colleagues Senator Blumenthal and Representative Schakowsky this Congress in introducing the Sunshine in Product Safety Act — vital, lifesaving, and commonsense legislation that will bring much-needed daylight to consumers and accountability to manufacturers.”

CPSC is an independent federal agency established by Congress in 1972 and tasked with promoting consumer safety, but over the years, its authority has been weakened and funding reduced. In 1981, Congress significantly amended Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act to give manufacturers an effective veto over the CPSC’s release of company-related information to the public. The Sunshine in Product Safety Act would repeal Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, and allow CPSC to share critical information about hazardous products quickly.

The amended Section 6(b) has led to delays of warnings, no warnings, or releases of generic information that can be confusing, rather than informative, to consumers. For example, when CPSC issued warnings about “inclined infant sleep products,” most consumers did not understand that these warnings were in fact primarily about the ubiquitous and dangerous Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.

Section 6(b) also hinders the release of information that should be accessible to the public consistent with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the agency’s other information disclosure requirements.

In the case of the Peloton Tread+, CPSC was unable to alert the public of the 39 reported incidents related to children, pets, and objects getting pulled under the treadmill until a month later. These incidents ranged from mild injury to broken limbs, brain damage, and even death. Some incidents also occurred while the treadmill was being operated and in use by an adult. CPSC was also required to negotiate with Peloton over the wording and timing of the warning alert because of Section 6(b).

The Sunshine in Product Safety Act is supported by the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Kids In Danger, and Public Citizen.

“Section 6(b) keeps consumers in the dark, prevents critical information from being shared with the public that could impact the health and safety of their families, and thwarts the CPSC from fulfilling their mission to protect consumers from unsafe products” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel with Consumer Federation of America. “This bill is necessary to ensure that people have the information they need to make decisions about consumer products they own or are considering purchasing.”

“Companies shouldn’t be able to hide safety hazards or have the CPSC seek their permission before warning the public. People expect to hear about it if a product might put them or their families at risk. We strongly urge every member of Congress to support the Sunshine in Product Safety Act and make sure that our laws put people’s safety ahead of corporate profits,” said Oriene Shin, policy counsel for Consumer Reports.

“For too long, Section 6(b) of the US Consumer Product Safety Act has stymied efforts to get unsafe products out of homes and get safety information to consumers,” said Nancy Cowles, Executive Director of Kids In Danger. “This week’s warning of hazards with the Peloton Tread+ is the latest evidence of this. But this is the tip of the iceberg. The list of companies counting on 6(b) to hide information from consumers is an arm long and mile wide. We applaud the efforts of Senator Blumenthal, and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Bobby Rush of Illinois in addressing this critical safety issue.”

“The corporate secrecy provision in product safety law that is known as Section 6(b) has time and again slowed critical product hazard information from getting to consumers, leading to additional injuries and even lost lives,” said Remington A. Gregg, Counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights at Public Citizen. “The CPSC should have the ability to quickly release timely and specific warnings to best safeguard the public. Unfortunately, 6(b) hampers the CPSC’s ability to do so, and that’s why Public Citizen supports its repeal.”

The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here. A similar version of the legislation was introduced in the House.

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