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Lawmaker says safety panel flubbed recalls, endangering consumers

A series of high-profile failures to effectively recall dangerous products calls into question whether the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is doing enough to protect consumers, according to findings released Thursday by Senator Maria Cantwell. 

The federal agency in charge of protecting Americans from dangerous and defective products showed an inappropriate deference to industry in its actions involving the Britax B.O.B jogging stroller, the Fisher-Price Rock 'n' Play inclined infant sleeper and the safety of residential elevator systems, contends the report released by Cantwell and the Democratic-minority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. 

Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission approved recalls, it sometimes did so in a way that generated more business for affected companies, according to the examination of documents involved in three recent investigations by the safety panel. That's because rather than getting new, safe products or refunds following a recall, consumers are often offered discount coupons for new products.

"Consumers and their families should have confidence in the products they buy," Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, said in a statement. "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."

After some 200 reports of wheels detaching from the Britax B.O.B jogging stroller, leading to injuries, the CPSC's leadership ignored staff warnings urging an immediate recall of the item and terminated a lawsuit against the manufacturer, according to the report and media accounts. Under a 2018 settlement between Britax and the agency, the company offered nearly 500,000 stroller owners a replacement part or a 20% discount on a new B.O.B jogging stroller. 

A similar scenario involved the Rock 'n Play infant inclined sleeper that has been tied to more than 30 infant deaths, according to the report. The CPSC and Fisher-Price in early April warned consumers that the sleeper had been linked to the deaths of 10 babies, but did not recall the product until after the American Academy of Pediatrics urged an immediate recall, citing a report from Consumer Reports that linked 32 infant deaths to the device.

Study finds Rock 'n Play design led to deaths... 01:48

Finally, in the case of residential elevators with known hazards, then CPSC-chair Ann Marie Buerkle issued a safety warning that "shifted blame for defects from the manufacturers to families and state regulators," the report states. 

A spokesperson for the CPSC declined to comment on Cantwell's report. 

Buerkle, a Republican, stepped down as head of the safety commission when her term ended in October. She unexpectedly announced her decision in July after criticism of her agency's handling of the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play recall and its decision not to recall the jogging stroller. Robert Adler, a commissioner with the CPSC since 2009, is now its acting chairman. 

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