As a Central Syracuse New York products liability lawyer, I take a keen interest in news about dangerous products or false safety claims by manufacturers. That’s why an article in the New York Times caught my eye yesterday. The article talked about how United States Senator Tom Udall (Democrat, NM) is formally requesting that the Federal Trade Commission investigate the alleged deceptive advertising practices of sports helmet manufacturers.
The senator says two major helmet manufacturers, Riddell and Schutt, have been fooling the public with their claims to increased concussion prevention. But Udall has his crosshairs mostly on Riddell, whose ads claim that that its “Revolution” helmets decrease the risk of concussions by as much as 31 percent. This 31 percent figure is deemed deceptive because the “Revolution” helmets were compared with second-hand helmets in unknown condition and with unknown manufacture date.
The advertising is clearly aimed at cashing in on parents’ increasing worries about the long-term effects of concussions on their child-athletes .
Deceptive safety claims in advertising are not new. The truth is that unsafe products are often marketed and sold as safe. Think about the tobacco industry and how they continued to claim that their cigarettes were safe even years after the entire medical community had determined they were not.
Let’s face it; companies often fail to give full and proper warnings about the dangers of their products. Why? In a word, “money”. They can sell more products by keeping their customers in the dark about the dangers that lurk beneath the smooth veneer of their products.
How can we dissuade companies from deceptive safety claims? Two ways: Strict government oversight, with heavy fines for deceptive practices (thank you Senator Tom Udall!) and product liability lawsuits (my job!).
When weighing the pros and cons of making exaggerated safety claims, companies place increased sales earnings on the “let’s do it” side of the scale.