The Sunshine in Product Safety Act would repeal Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act – a constraint that allows companies to delay the agency’s public warnings and recalls about hazardous products
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) are introducing the Sunshine in Product Safety Act to bolster the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) ability to communicate essential health and safety information about potentially unsafe products to consumers without risking manufacturer retaliation.
“This measure removes the regulatory straightjacket that deprives consumers of vital product safety information,” said Blumenthal. “Current regulatory requirements give companies the right to veto vital CPSC warnings and deny the truth to consumers. By repealing Section 6(b), our measure would free the CPSC to swiftly warn the public about hazardous products and require companies to put people ahead of profits.”
“Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from telling the public about potentially dangerous products without the company’s permission. Simply put, it protects companies over consumers. This cannot stand,” said Schakowsky. “I am proud to reintroduce the Sunshine in Product Safety Act with Senator Blumenthal so that the CPSC is fully empowered to promptly warn people about dangerous products. This bill puts consumers first and will save lives. I look forward to advancing this bill. But it will not be enough alone. Companies must do more to retrieve recalled products quickly and effectively. Together we can end these preventable deaths and injuries and ensure the safety of our children.”
CPSC, an independent federal agency, was established by Congress in 1972 and tasked with promoting consumer safety. Over the years, its authority has been weakened and its 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, forcing the agency to negotiate with manufacturers before releasing 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 more swiftly issue recalls and inform the public about hazardous products.
The amended Section 6(b) has led to delays of warnings, no warnings, or releases of generic—and often confusing—information to consumers. When CPSC issued warnings about “inclined infant sleep products,” most consumers did not understand that these warnings were in fact primarily about the popular Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper, which has since been tied to at least 100 infant deaths.
Section 6(b) also puts constraints on the agency’s ability to release information that should be accessible to the public consistent with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the agency’s other information disclosure requirements.
Blumenthal and Schakowsky first introduced the Sunshine in Product Safety Act in April 2021 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.
The Sunshine in Product Safety Act is supported by the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Kids In Danger, and Public Citizen.
“It is time for Congress to stop allowing companies to put the lives of consumers, especially our most vulnerable, in danger,” said Courtney Griffin, the Director of Consumer Product Safety at Consumer Federation of America. “We applaud Senator Blumenthal and Congresswoman Schakowsky for valuing transparency and the lives of consumers by introducing the Sunshine in Product Safety Act. It is past time to repeal the gag order that is Section 6(b) and allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to do its life-saving work to the best of its ability.”
“Companies shouldn’t be able to hide or delay the disclosure of 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.
“Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act prevents the CPSC from being able to adequately notify parents and caregivers about hazardous products they may be using with their family,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger (KID). “The Sunshine in Product Safety Act frees the CPSC to share lifesaving information without the company’s permission.”
“Public Citizen supports the bicameral re-introduction of the Sunshine in Product Safety Act, which will provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with the ability to communicate important health and safety information about potentially dangerous products to consumers without risking unnecessary delays and retaliation by manufacturers,” said Martha Perez-Pedemonti, the Civil Justice and Consumer Rights Counsel at Public Citizen. “The CPSC’s currently inability to promptly inform consumers about potentially dangerous products is unacceptable and Public Citizen applauds Senator Blumenthal and Congresswoman Schakowsky for their steadfast efforts to enact this legislation.”
The full text of the Senate legislation, which was introduced today, can be found here. A similar version of the legislation will be introduced in the House tomorrow.