[WASHINGTON, DC] – Ahead of an end-of-year goal to develop critical new safety standards for dangerous window covering cords, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ranking Member on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, criticized major window covering manufacturers for failing to provide data that provides key support for the latest version of the voluntary standard for window coverings. The new standards are being developed in response to a letter from Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) calling for strong child safety protections, but the most recent draft does not require all window coverings to be cordless. Rather, the draft standard includes a cordless requirement for “stock” products, but not “custom” products.
“WCMA’s decision to revisit the voluntary standard represents a significant opportunity to put an end to the tragically predictable and over two-decade long trend of one child dying each month from window covering cords,” Blumenthal said. “To ensure that the new updated standard is truly effective, it is critical that we know what portion of the market will be affected by the new standards. I am disappointed WCMA has not been transparent with this information, and has not yet heeded my call to produce data that is fundamentally important to developing new safety standards. I urge them to do so immediately. “
Blumenthal wrote to the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) and Springs Window Fashions requesting information “to have a clear understanding of the current window covering market and its trajectory, including what share of the market is sold as “custom” and as “stock,” including online sales in both categories, so that we can accurately assess to what extent the new standard will effectively protect young children.”
In June, in response to a letter from Blumenthal and Klobuchar, as well as pressure from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, WCMA announced it would revise its voluntary safety standard for window covering products to address the strangulation risk posed by accessible cords. Nearly every month for decades, at least one child has strangled to death on a window covering cord. The Consumer Federation of America reported yesterday that four children have been killed in the last six weeks.
Blumenthal has also led efforts to protect children of military families and families seeking federal housing assistance who may be particularly vulnerable to this hazard. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blumenthal included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 directing the Secretary of Defense to remove and replace window coverings with accessible cords from military housing units in which children under the age of nine reside.
In April, Blumenthal wrote the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, urging them to take action to protect children from dangerous window covering cords in military housing and federally assisted housing. Enclosed in the letter to the Department of Defense was information Blumenthal’s office previously requested from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Parents for Window Blind Safety on window covering injuries and deaths related to military housing.
The full text of Blumenthal’s letter to Ralph Vasami, Executive Director of WCMA is copied below. A similar letter was sent to Scott Fawcett, President and Chief Executive Officer of Springs Window Fashions.
December 16, 2016
Mr. Ralph Vasami
Window Covering Manufacturers Association
355 Lexington Avenue 15th Floor
New York, New York 10017
Dear Mr. Vasami:
In June, I welcomed your announcement that the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) would revise the current voluntary window covering standard to effectively address the significant strangulation risk to children posed by accessible window covering cords. Your commitment to develop and submit for ballot, in accordance with American National Standards Institute guidelines, a revised standard by the end of 2016 is commendable. However, as we near the end of 2016, and in the midst of four recent window covering cord child deaths, I write requesting the data supporting your proposal to segment the market and the applicability of the voluntary standard based on whether the product is “stock” or “custom.” This data is critical to helping those involved in the standard-setting process to understand your reasoning behind this proposal and to keep us on schedule to finalize a revised standard by the year’s end.
As you know, I have pledged to do all I can to comprehensively eliminate the preventable danger posed by dangerous window covering cords. Part of my work has included working with relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), both of whom provide housing to particularly vulnerable segments of the population. I have urged both agencies to replace window coverings in the housing they oversee in order to safeguard young children from such dangers. Despite progress on these fronts, WCMA’s revisiting of the voluntary standard represents a significant and important opportunity to put an end to the tragically predictable and over two-decade long trend of one child dying each month from window covering cords.
According to the most recent draft of the standard, only “stock” window coverings will be required to be cordless. Any so-called “custom” window coverings will be exempt from cordless requirements that would significantly reduce the strangulation hazard posed to children by corded window coverings. A “custom” order may include any window covering orders for an irregular window size, particular material, an order of a large quantity, or any order where the window covering is fabricated after the order is made by the consumer. Such “custom” orders are often made online, where customers can be presented with many options. Thus, it is important to those involved in revising the current standard to have a clear understanding of the current window covering market and its trajectory, including what share of the market is sold as “custom” and as “stock,” including online sales in both categories, so that we can accurately assess to what extent the new standard will effectively protect young children.
Accordingly, I respectfully request any data and reports supporting WCMA’s assertions that this proposed segmentation of the market into “stock” and “custom” would allow the standard to address the vast majority of the window covering market. This information should include what percent of sales are made online and in-stores, units for any data, such as whether it is in terms of sales volume or sales dollars, as well as methodology explaining how data was gathered.
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this request. I respectfully request the data requested no later than Wednesday, December 21, 2016.