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Consumer Confidential: Peloton won't recall treadmill that killed a child. Why aren't officials acting?

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Federal authorities have issued an "urgent warning" that Peloton's Tread+ treadmill is dangerous and poses a grave risk to households "after multiple incidents of small children and a pet being injured beneath the machines."

Peloton's response? The company called the warning from the Consumer Product Safety Commission "inaccurate and misleading," and told customers "there is no reason to stop using the Tread+."

Peloton's chief executive, John Foley, said in a separate statement that the company had "no intention" of recalling the $4,300 treadmill — a process that probably would cost the company millions of dollars.

Clearly there's a lot going on here, and I'm in no position to speak one way or the other about the safety (or lack thereof) of the Tread+.

But all consumers should be deeply troubled that the federal agency overseeing product safety has precious little room to maneuver if a company challenges the agency's findings and refuses to recall a questionable product.

Yes, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has authority to seek mandatory recalls under certain conditions. The reality, however, is that this hardly ever happens.

 

"Practically all of the recalls of products which the CPSC has power to regulate are voluntary," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

"The CPSC probably should have more power to require recalls so that it can better protect consumers," he told me.

The current regulatory standoff with Peloton makes that painfully clear.

If a company won't voluntarily recall a product — as is the case with Peloton — past experience tells us that federal officials will now step aside and leave it to consumers to make their own decisions.

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