Short Guide to the Consumer Product Safety Act
- Primary purpose is to protect consumers from unreasonable risks of injury.
- Consumer products are articles for sale to or use by consumers in and around a home, school or recreation area except products regulated by other agencies,
i.e., cars, boats, drugs.
- Commission maintains injury information clearinghouse to collect and disseminate information.
- National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) provides estimates of the number of hospital emergency room treated injuries associated with over 800 consumer products. Computer printouts are available. They have been entered into evidence to show scope of injuries.
- Commission also collects Epidemiologic Incident Reports (EIR). They have been used to show similar incidents.
- Publishes Hazard Analyses and other documents describing product hazards and provide basis for knowledge of danger.
- All CPSC information that identifies a company or a product must be transmitted to the company before it is provided under the Freedom of Information Act (only agency with this requirement).
- The Commission must determine that a product creates an unreasonable risk of injury before developing a standard or ban. Standards must be reasonably related to the reduction of injuries.
- Anyone can petition the Commission to develop a product safety standard. Many standards have started with a petition. A standard can either change the product or require warnings and information to be provided to consumers.
- Imminent hazards are the highest level of hazard. Such cases are handled in federal District Court. There have only been a handful of imminent hazard findings. The Commission found that ATV’s presented an imminent hazard and settled the case with a Consent Decree.
- Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act provides for notification to consumers and repair, replacement or refund for products found to create a substantial product hazard.
- Manufacturers, distributors and retailers are required to report to the Commission when they obtain information that the product “could create a substantial product hazard” or “creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.”
- Over 90 percent of all recalls are voluntary. Many are done under the
“Fast Track” program, where the Commission makes no determination as to whether the product presents a substantial product hazard.
- Information created in Section 15 proceedings can be useful in evaluating defects and unreasonably dangerous conditions. It is critical to ask for the right data, which is only available after a corrective action plan has been accepted by the Commission.
- Companies who fail to report to the CPSC in a timely manner are subject to substantial civil penalties.
- Any person who sustains injury by reason of a knowing violation of a consumer product safety rule (standard) or order issued by the Commission may sue for damages under the act. They can collect attorney and expert fees. The remedies are in addition to and no in lieu of other damages.
- Compliance with consumer product safety rules or orders issued by the Commission does not relieve any person from liability at Common Law or state statutory law.
- The failure of the Commission to take action with respect to the safety of a product shall not be admissible in evidence. (There have been exceptions.)
- In addition to the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Commission enforces the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, Poison Prevention Packaging Act, Flammable Fabrics Act and the Refrigerator Safety Act.