The lack of a requirement for manufacturers to have their products independently evaluated and certified for safety could be putting some consumers in danger. Although billions of products are tested annually for safety by third party agencies, there is currently no federal law that requires this be done. As a result,many manufacturers place potentially hazardous toys, electronics and other items on the market risking the safety of consumers. While occurrences are relatively rare, these products can cause severe injuries that result in disability and even death.
In 2015, for example, hoverboards began exploding and bursting into flames across the U.S. In fact, over a period of just 10 weeks the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission was notified of 52 fires caused by hoverboards. Spanning 24 states, these incidents resulted in an estimated $2 million in property damages and caused a slew of injuries. According to the Safety Commission, many of these occurrences could have been prevented if the hoverboards had been tested and manufactured for safety. In July of 2016, the CPSC recalled approximately 500,000 hoverboards from a variety of manufacturers.
Why Do Manufacturers Forego Safety Testing
One reason that many manufacturers allow their products to arrive on store (and digital) shelves without ever having them tested by an independent third party is cost. According to John Coviello of TUV Rheinland of North America, third party testing can take months to complete, often costing tens of thousands of dollars. Smaller companies may not be able to afford independent testing, so many companies will choose to self-certify.
Financial burden for small companies isn’t the only reason products are often not tested through a third party, however. Apple self-certifies the iPhone under the “CE” mark in Europe. Samsung, the multi-million dollar maker of the recently recalled Galaxy Note 7, chose to self-certify as well. The Note 7 was recalled due to being linked to a number of fires.
No Guarantees with Product Safety
Although there are no guarantees that a product will be safe- even when tested by a third party, there are things consumers can do to help protect themselves.
- Check for third party safety certification
- Beware of suspicious certification markings and confirm authenticity with the issuer if needed
- Be cautious when buying products that are significantly cheaper than competitors similar products
- Although manufacturers are ultimately liable for dangerous products, be aware that reporting safety concerns could save a life.