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The CPSC’s new ombudsman can be useful to manufacturers who pay attention

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is continuing full steam ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic, recently announcing Dr. Jonathan Midgett as its appointed Consumer Ombudsman.

According to the CPSC, the Consumer Ombudsman is a new position created to “give consumers a greater voice and understanding of the agency and its activities.” In his role, Dr. Midgett will “act as a liaison between consumers and the CPSC, helping to provide information and transparency about the regulatory process,” the agency notes. He will serve as a resource for non-regulated stakeholders such as consumer-advocacy organizations and victims.

This new job comes as consumer advocates have been calling for the CPSC to implement stricter regulation – most recently in the children’s products category, with infant deaths linked to faulty jogging strollers, cribs with bumpers, and inclined sleepers.

But consumer advocacy groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Kids In Danger, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, aren’t letting up. They continue to alert consumers to recalls while criticizing the CPSC. The recent warning to parents and caregivers to immediately stop using a national brand of inclined sleepers is just one example. And even more recently, these consumer advocates, among others, are publicly voicing their opposition to the nomination of Nancy Beck to chair the CPSC.

Dr. Midgett has dedicated almost two decades of his career working from within the agency to protect consumers. A significant number of those years have been specifically focused on children’s product safety. There’s no doubt his experience at the CPSC will bring a unique and beneficial perspective to his job as Consumer Ombudsman.

Dr. Midgett is in the ideal position to not only ensure consumers have all the information needed when it comes to product safety, but to also ensure the voices of consumer advocacy groups are being heard within the agency. This will likely lead to even more – not less – pressure on regulators, and as a result, increased recall activity.

If you’re a manufacturer or company in the consumer product industry and this concerns you – it shouldn’t. At least not quite yet. And here’s why:

Dr. Midgett’s role adds a communication line among the CPSC, consumer advocates, and manufacturers. This will lead to an increase in communication between all three parties, allowing for more transparency. This can be extremely beneficial for manufacturers as they gain insight into what consumers are most worried about. Manufacturers can use that information to address concerns from the beginning stages of production to create safer products, and in turn, spare themselves from future recalls. And if more companies start doing this, there will be a decrease in hazardous products in the market and fewer battles for consumer advocates to fight, leading to fewer recalls for regulators to implement.

This is what we see happening based on our experience in the field. But for now, all we can share is informed speculation. As Dr. Midgett’s role develops, there’s no doubt he’ll make news. In the meantime, we recommend reevaluating your products and processes to ensure consumer safety guidelines are met or exceeded.

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