Consumer Reports: Why don't recalls happen faster?

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Consumer Reports: Why don't recalls happen faster?
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Joe Torres reports on the restrictions in the law governing the agency that is supposed to protect us from dangerous products.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- If deaths are linked to a potentially hazardous product and the government knows about it, you'd think that information would always be made public. And you'd be wrong.

Consumer Reports revealed surprising restrictions in the very law governing the agency that is supposed to protect us from dangerous products.

Evan and Keenan Overton lost their 5-month-old son, Ezra, just a few days before Christmas in 2017. They blame their son's death on the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play sleeper, which Ezra slept in that night.

"His face was planted into the back of the seat, like into the monkey's face, I guess, of the rocker," Keenan said. "And his feet were straight, standing into the dip of the seat. And, when I picked him up, he felt like a doll."

Shockingly, Ezra's death isn't an isolated incident. Initially, Consumer Reports identified at least 19 infant fatalities linked to the Rock 'n Play Sleeper and similar products made by Kids II, in data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government agency charged with protecting the public from dangerous products.

Ultimately, Consumer Reports was able to uncover more than a dozen additional deaths through its investigation.

Yet the identities of the companies whose sleepers were linked to infant deaths were kept hidden from the public for years because of Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

"Section 6(b) requires the CPSC, in most cases, to get permission from manufacturers before releasing their names or any information that could reveal their identities," Consumer Reports investigative reporter Rachel Rabkin Peachman said. "Even when products are linked with injuries or fatalities."

In 2016, Ikea recalled millions of its dressers, but only after seven deaths and dozens of injuries dating all the way back to 1989.

And more recently, it took Britax owned BOB Gear seven years to finally offer consumers a potential fix to their jogging strollers, which had been linked to at least 97 injuries to children and adults. The company still hasn't recalled the strollers.

In both of these cases, the CPSC knew about the problems with Ikea dressers and BOB strollers -- all of this has led to Consumer Reports calling for the repeal of section 6(b).

David Friedman, Consumer Reports VP, Advocacy, said one of the critical next steps is for Congress to just simply eliminate the 6(b) provision.

"Everyone should know," Keenan Overton said. "If there's one baby that died in a product, you should know about that."

A settlement was reached between the company and the federal government to begin a consumer campaign on how to use their product.

Britax Child Safety, Inc. released the following statement:

"The Bob jogging strollers have a convenient quick-release feature, a part that's been used on bicycles for decades. The quick-release allows users to quickly remove the front wheel, making it easy to fold up for storage or transport. When used properly, the quick-release feature is safe. But some stroller users were unfamiliar with, or had trouble with, this feature, leading to some reports of injuries on BOB jogging strollers which were made before September 2015. Our priority is the safety of our products and we have an unwavering commitment to put our consumers first. Britax reached an agreement with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in November 2018 that involved Britax launching a consumer Information Campaign that features an educational video to further instruct consumers on how to safely and correctly operate the front quick release. To promote the effectiveness of the Campaign, certain free parts and discounts are available to eligible consumers who elect them, including free alternative axles or a 20 percent discount towards the purchase of a new BOB Gear stroller or accessory."