Congressional Democrats have introduced a bill that would make it easier for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to warn people about unsafe products, by repealing part of a 49-year-old law that limits what information the agency can release publicly.
The Sunshine in Product Safety Act (PDF) comes after reports that exercise machine company Peloton “obstructed CPSC’s investigation” into its Peloton Tread Plus treadmill, according to the members of Congress. The Tread Plus has been involved in some 39 accidents where children were injured, including one death.
The CPSC “was unable to alert the public of the reported incidents related to children, pets, and objects getting pulled under the treadmill until a month later,” according to the congresspeople. “These incidents ranged from mild injury to broken limbs, brain damage, and even death. Some incidents also occurred while the treadmill was being operated and in use by an adult.” The CPSC had to “negotiate with Peloton over the wording and timing of the warning alert” due to Section 6(b).
Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (PDF) restricts what information the CPSC can disclose publicly if it receives a safety hazard report about a product or manufacturer. Congress amended Section 6(b) of the act in 1981, generally requiring the CPSC to keep information confidential unless the company involved has agreed otherwise, or if the two sides have worked out a settlement agreement. There’s an exception where the CPSC can release information if it can prove there is “substantial product hazard” for public health and safety, but a company can sue to prevent the CPSC from revealing information, too.
The Sunshine in Product Safety Act would get rid of Section 6(b) entirely if it became law.
The CPSC declined to comment Thursday. But CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler said in a statement emailed to The Verge that he ”strongly believes repealing section 6(b) would enable the CPSC to provide consumers more safety information, sooner.”
The Washington Post reported last Friday that Peloton had resisted a request from the CPSC to recall the Tread Plus. The two sides were involved in negotiating over the wording of a warning to alert consumers of the potential dangers of the Tread Plus, and when to release the warning. Peloton did not provide the CPSC with personal information about the child killed in an incident with a Tread Plus — it claims the child’s family asked it not to — until the CPSC presented it with a subpoena.
Peloton said in a statement that the agency “unfairly characterized Peloton’s efforts to collaborate and to correct inaccuracies in CPSC’s press release as an attempt to delay. This could not be farther from the truth.” The CPSC, Peloton claims, was “unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussions with Peloton before issuing its inaccurate and misleading press release.” The company told the Post that it did not believe a recall of the treadmill was necessary.
On Saturday, the CPSC finally issued a warning about Peloton Tread Plus treadmills, saying the machines pose “serious risks to children for abrasions, fractures, and death.” Peloton CEO John Foley had said in a March blog post that the company was aware that a child had died in an accident on the treadmill.
The CPSC also posted a video (please be advised the video is disturbing) showing what could happen in a Tread Plus accident, showing security camera footage of a child being pulled under the treadmill and nearly crushed before he is able to escape.
The agency urged consumers with children at home to stop using the Tread Plus immediately, due to “multiple reports of children becoming entrapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller of the product.”
“CPSC must be able to move swiftly to warn Americans when products like the Peloton Tread+ and the Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play Sleeper pose a danger to them and their families,” reads a statement from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “Yet current regulatory constraints allow companies to call the shots on how and when to notify the public about their hazardous products, keeping important safety information from the public.”
The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play that Blumenthal referenced was a recliner meant to soothe babies to sleep that was recalled in 2019 after 30 reports of infant deaths. Blumenthal chairs the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security.
Peloton did not reply to a request for comment Thursday.
Update April 22nd 5:30PM ET: Adds comment from Acting CPSC Chairman Robert Adler