Democrats say consumer product safety commission too close to companies

WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), whose job is to assure products Americans buy are safe, is inappropriately deferential to companies it investigates, according to a report done for Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee released on Thursday.

Settlements reached by the Trump CPSC “are at odds with traditional recall agreements negotiated by the CPSC,” the report said.

“Rather than providing consumers with a specific remedy that repairs all impacted products or a refund to remove the dangerous products from homes, these recalls perversely serve as marketing tools to allow the recalling company to sell additional products,” the report found.

One product discussed in the report is the Fisher-Price Rock’n’Play Sleeper, which Consumer Reports found earlier this year was responsible for the deaths of at least 32 infants since 2009.

The CPSC said in April 2019 that the product was being recalled and customers given refunds, but the Commerce Committee staff found that refunds were only given to people who purchased it on or after Oct. 12, 2018 and only if the consumer had the original receipt. Others got a coupon for a Fisher-Price product.

“Industry and the Consumer Product Safety Commission need to take action to ensure that consumers aren’t buying dangerous or defective products and that those who do receive a real remedy,” said Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the committee.

The report also focused on the BOB jogging stroller, made by Britax, which faced recalls in 2014 for finger injuries and in 2017 because babies fell from the stroller.

The CPSC later learned that children were being injured by a new problem - the front wheel would detach - and approved a plan in 2018 allowing Britax to put up a video on how to fix the problem and to distribute repair parts.

As of April 2019, about 20% of the strollers were fixed, the report said.

The CPSC and Britax had no immediate comment on the findings. Fisher-Price owner Mattel did not respond to a request for comment.

The report also looked at residential elevators in resorts and big houses. Many have a gap between the outer and inner doors large enough in some cases for small children to become trapped or fall underneath, the report said.

The CPSC, to date, has only issued a safety alert urging that the elevators be inspected. The report said CPSC had failed to identify the companies that make the problem elevators or to require action to remedy the problem.

It urged the commission to be quicker to issue imminent health and safety warnings, to fine companies that fail to report hazards, and to use refunds or easy repairs to make consumers whole after they purchase a dangerous product. (Reporting by Diane Bartz Editing by Bill Berkrot)