CPSC wants to inform you about recalls faster. Here's why the delay exists and how Congress can help.

CPSC wants to inform you about recalls faster. Here's why the delay exists and how Congress can help.

You could learn about recalled products faster, if the Consumer Product Safety Commission has its way. And you get a say. 

The CPSC is looking to update a rule that prohibits what it can reveal immediately.

Known as Section 6(b) within the commission, the rule comes with disclosure restrictions, meaning that the commission can't readily reveal the name of the product that identifies the manufacturer, until they give the company at least 15 days to comment. But, the initial process can take between 30 to 60 days.

On Wednesday, Alex Hoehn-Saric, chair of the commission, issued a statement calling the update "long overdue" as the restrictive rules in place today were adopted in 1983.

When the CPSC is delayed in releasing information on product-related deaths and injuries, additional deaths or serious injuries can occur," said Hoehn-Saric, in a prepared statement.

The commission is inviting the public to comment on the rule.

Recalled products still end up on the market and in people's homes and cause harm, according to a report by Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog at U.S. Public Interest Research Group and author of the "Safe at Home."

In her report, she says the Section 6(b) requirement to wait 15 days after notifying the company of a dangerous product gives companies enough time to file a lawsuit to block the commission from disclosing the product in question.

While Murray said the commission's announcement is welcome, "it's not a cure-all."

"The CPSC is dipping its toe into the water to try and gain more authority to inform consumers when the agency has received dozens or hundreds of incident reports from consumers, hospitals, coroners or other officials about a particular product, whether it's a washing machine that catches fire or a treadmill that suddenly throws people off."

Murray said the commission is taking a good first step, but only Congress can repeal this section of the law that restricts the commission's warning ability.

In 2021, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Bobby L. Rush, both Democrats from Illinois, introduced the Sunshine in Product Safety Act, to strike down the provision, but there has been no action on the bill since its introduction.

Blumenthal's office did not respond when USA TODAY reached out.

The provision has caught the ire of past commissioners. In 2019, commissioner Elliot F. Kaye said in a congressional hearing that the commission was "tiny" compared to other federal health agencies, needed more funding to do its jobs protecting consumers, and needed revisions to their statutes.

"People die because of Section 6(b). It is that simple," he said.

One could point to the Peloton treadmill as an example. The company didn't self-report entrapment incidents from December 2018 to 2019 incurring a $19 million fine. 

A child had died by the time Peloton notified the commission, and several consumers reported broken bones, lacerations, friction burns and pets and objects getting pulled under the treadmill.

CPSC Commissioner Mary Boyleissued a statementcalling on manufacturers to responsibly share information about harmful products. 

"Even if companies can use Section 6 as a means to limit or delay disclosure," she said, "I am challenging them to consider a different question: should they instead be forthcoming with information to help consumers avoid harm? For me, the answer of course is yes."

Amritpal Kaur Sandhu-Longoria is the consumer watchdog investigative reporter on USA TODAY’s Money team. Send her your tips at asandhulongoria@usatoday.com, @AmritpalKSL, or on Signal at (279) 789-2462.

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