Peloton issue – proposed changes to consumer product safety law

A public spat emerged between the CPSC and Peloton regarding the potential risks associated with a treadmill.  The two parties exchanged statements criticising the other.  This very unusual public display has prompted a change in the law.

Proposed changes to the US Consumer Product Safety Act would mean that authorities have the power to freely inform consumers when dangerous goods are on the market.  Unlike other authorities, the CPSC does not have the powers to freely name manufacturers who may have placed potentially dangerous products on the market.

The Sunshine in Product Safety Act was introduced on 22 April 2021 by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Bobby L. Rush (D-IL).  This would enable the CPSC to publicise information about potentially dangerous products without the risk of retaliatory action by the manufacturer.  Thereby putting the CPSC in a more powerful position to recall products; making recalls more likely.

Senator Blumenthal, one of the authors of the new act said “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. 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. This bill will eliminate these constraints, restoring transparency to product safety for the sake of consumers.”

The key element in the legislation is section 6(b).  Following the Consumer Product Safety Act’s introduction in 1972, section 6(b) was amended in 1981 to essentially give manufacturers a veto over the publication of company information.  Thereby meaning that consumers may not be aware of potentially dangerous products on the market.

With reference to Peloton, it is worth saying that these cases are not always clear cut.  Whilst greater consumer protection and improved transparency is surely a good thing, there may be cases where companies disagree with the required action.  In this case, Peloton took a different view to the dangers of their product and said in a statement:

“Peloton invited CPSC to make a joint announcement about the danger of not following the warnings and safety instructions provided with the Tread+, and Foley (CEO) asked to meet directly with CPSC. CPSC has 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 company already urged Members to follow all warnings and safety instructions. Peloton is disappointed that, despite its offers of collaboration, and despite the fact that the Tread+ complies with all applicable safety standards, CPSC was unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussions with Peloton before issuing its inaccurate and misleading press release”.

The ultimate objective always has to be ensuring the safety of consumers and a proportionate and timely response if risks are identified.  Communicating these risks to consumers so they understand potential hazards is a key part of that.

References: