PRODUCT SAFETY: Many Companies Wait to Report Complaints
When concerns arise about product safety, companies that manufacture children's products "frequently conduct internal investigations" about their products, but "remain publicly silent as complaints about alleged defects pile up," USA Today reports. Over the past three years, 75% of the most dangerous problems that led to recalls were never voluntarily reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and during the same time, at least 17 products, which had reports of "children suffering everything from lost fingers to brain injuries," stayed on the market. According to CPSC, more than 70,000 children are injured and about 60 die each year from injuries suffered in cribs, infant carriers and other non-toy children's items. Since 1998, six manufacturers have agreed to civil penalties for waiting too long or never reporting problems to CPSC. Most recently, Hasbro will have to pay the government $400,000 for its faulty infant carrier, which had reports of skull fractures after handle locks failed and carriers turned upside down. For its part, Hasbro denies any wrongdoing, claiming it settled the matter to avoid long legal wrangling. Other companies have been fined for delayed reporting on cribs, strollers and pacifiers.
Standards Vaguely Written?
Attorneys for some of the manufacturers maintain that CPSC's "reporting requirements are vaguely written, making it easy to see how companies might not think they need to report a hazard." Other manufacturers argue that "it's difficult to predict how consumers might misuse a product and don't think they should be blamed for consumers' mistakes." But Alan Schoem, CPSC's director of compliance, maintains that the regulations are "pretty clear," yet "companies simply prefer not to report." While there is no "magic number" of injuries or complaints a company must receive before reporting to CPSC, Schoem said that CPSC allows companies between 24 hours and 10 days to investigate complaints and decide if a product hazard rather than misuse is the cause of a complaint. Karen Sheehan, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Medical School, added, "I don't think there's any excuse if a company knows something is causing harm to a child to not let CPSC know to help get the word out to parents" (O'Donnell, 4/3).