A month ago, we here at Abnormal Use reported on a huge decision in the fight against the draconian measures of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ban spherical desktop magnets. In an order dated March 25, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Dean Metry found that small rare earth magnets (“SREMs”) are not defective, did not contain inadequate warnings, and, when sold with appropriate warnings, are not substantial product hazards. The ALJ order came on the heels of a March 22, 2016 decision from a a related case pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado involving Zen Magnets’ sale of certain recalled products it acquired from another company (Star Networks USA) after that company reached a settlement with the CPSC. At the time of our writing, reports on the March 22, 2016 and the recall of “dangerous” magnets dominated the interwebs.
Some four weeks later, a quick Google search for “Zen Magnets” will easily reveal plenty of reports from various entities about the Zen Magnets’ victory. Venture over to the CPSC’s website, however, and the order is buried on a page containing the public filings from all of the CPSC’s adjudicative proceedings. Now, there is nothing wrong with the CPSC placing the order in this location. It is where it belongs, and we certainly wouldn’t expect for a report on a loss to be found front and center on the main page. The problem though is what is on the main page – a highlighted report of the March 22, 2016 decision, banning the sale of recalled products Zen acquired from another company.
Ordinarily, we have no problem with the “highlight your wins, gloss over your losses” approach. It is natural, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. However, when two decisions are issued within a few days of each other and the CPSC chooses to highlight one with the misleading title, “Federal Court Orders Zen Magnets Recall” without proper context, it is a problem. CPSC, you can highlight what you want, but let’s be clear. One decision specifically found that Zen Magnets are not defective and are not substantial hazards. The other made no specific factual findings about the alleged danger of Zen Magnets themselves, but instead, ordered Zen Magnets to stop selling recalled products it acquired from another company. When you say, “Federal Court Orders Zen Magnets Recall,” why don’t you let Zen Magnets’ buyers know what that really means?