Injury and Accident Law
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent Federal regulatory agency charged with reducing unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. The CPSC has jurisdiction over about 15,000 types of consumer products used in the home, in schools, and in recreation. To carry out its mission, CPSC administers five statutes passed by Congress. They are: (1) the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2051-2084 (CPSA), (2) the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1261-1278 (FHSA), (3) the Flammable Fabrics Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1191-1204 (FFA), (4) the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1471-1476 (PPPA), and (5) the Refrigerator Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1211-1214 (RSA).
This Handbook has been developed to assist firms in understanding what steps they should take when CPSC informs them or they become aware of a violation of CPSC statutes and regulations. Firms should review this Handbook in conjunction with the Letter of Advice (LOA) CPSC staff sends informing a firm of a violation and the applicable statutes and regulations provided with the LOA. After reviewing the information in the Chapters which follow, please direct any questions to the appropriate CPSC Compliance Officer or the Office of Compliance at 301-504-7913.
HOW CPSC ENFORCES ITS STATUTES
The goal of the Commission’s Compliance Program is to ensure that firms comply with the laws, regulations, and standards that protect consumers from hazardous products. To achieve this goal, the agency conducts three main types of compliance activities:
- Informing industries of CPSC requirements for their products and educating them through seminars and information letters, as appropriate;
- Maintaining surveillance over consumer products and following up on reports of products that may not be in compliance with federal standards or may be potentially hazardous products;
- Identifying and obtaining corrections of violations and recalls of hazardous products from the marketplace or consumers, primarily by working cooperatively with industry, but through litigation when necessary.
Specific compliance activities include the following:
- Enforcing existing regulations and laws by (1) conducting both domestic surveillance through inspections of the regulated industry and import surveillance at Ports of Entry in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and (2) following up on injury reports, consumer complaints, trade complaints or other allegations or indications that a firm is manufacturing or distributing a consumer product not in compliance with the law.
- Section 15 of the CPSA requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to the CPSC, among other things, products that fail to comply with a standard or banning rule issued under the CPSA. If a product violates a mandatory standard under the FHSA, FFA, PPPA or RSA, the firm must determine whether the violation rises to the level of a defect that could create a substantial product hazard or creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death∗. If so, the firm must report. Section 37 of the CPSA requires manufacturers to report to the Commission products which are the subject of at least three civil actions within a 24-month period that result in a judgment or final settlement in favor of the plaintiff. The Commission has the authority to remove hazardous products from the marketplace under section 15 of the CPSA and section 15 of the FHSA.
Once the CPSC staff determines a product violates a specific statute or regulation, CPSC Compliance staff generally notifies the responsible firm (the product manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer). Notification to the responsible firm is usually in the form of an official letter, referred to in this handbook as a Letter of Advice (LOA).
The LOA informs the firm of the specific product and violation involved, requests the firm to take specific corrective actions, and informs the firm of the legal actions available to the Commission in the event the firm does not agree to correct the violations voluntarily.
In addition, the LOA informs the firm that if it disagrees with CPSC staff that a violation has occurred or believes the product is not subject to the Commission’s laws, it may question the staff’s findings and present evidence to support its position.
∗ When the Commission issues a product standard, it finds that the standard is necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk of injury. Thus, for reporting purposes, firms must determine whether a violation of a standard under the FHSA, FFA, PPPA, or RSA creates a risk of serious injury or death.