There have been recent calls for Congress to re-visit H.R. 2211, the “Stop Tip-overs of Un-stable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act” also known as the “STURDY Act.” Sponsored by Janice Schakowsky (Dem-IL 9th District), the bill was introduced in Congress last session and passed by the House on September 17, 2019 but never passed by the Senate. It would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) to promulgate a consumer product safety rule for free-standing clothing storage units to protect children from tip-over related death or injury.

As we indicated in our May 2020 analysis of dresser tip-overs, tip-overs have been a main focus for the CPSC and consumer advocacy groups in recent years. A CPSC report indicates that 571 people died from furniture tip-overs between 2000 and 2019, and 82% of those were children (ages ranged from 1 month to 14 years). A survey conducted by the CPSC showed that 41% of respondents did not anchor furniture in their homes.

Currently, there is no mandatory standard requiring manufacturers to test furniture to specific stability and safety standards. The current voluntary standard, ASTM F2057 – 19, is recognized by industry and the CPSC as required best practice in order to prevent tip-overs from dressers and other clothing storage units. Continue Reading New Proposed Legislation to Prevent Furniture Tip-Over

Recalls in Review: A monthly spotlight on trending regulatory enforcement issues at the CPSC.

The CPSC has been very clear that protecting children from dresser tip over is a top priority.  The Commission actively monitors and tests furniture for compliance with stability standards, and frequently recalls products that present a tip over hazard.  As of today, the CPSC has recalled at least thirty dressers since 1996, and five already in 2020 alone.

 

A review of the recalls shows that the majority (61%) were conducted despite zero reported incidents involving consumers.  Most of those were based on noncompliance with the tipover standard, ASTM 2057.

ASTM 2057, the standard safety specification for clothing storage units, was revised in 2014, 2017, and most recently in 2019.  Importantly, even if a product is compliant with the current standard at the time of manufacture, it could still be recalled for noncompliance with a future revised version.  This has been the case in at least 2 recalls: here and here.

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About Recalls in Review: As with all things, but particularly in retail, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending with consumers. Regulatory enforcement is no different – it can also be subject to pop culture trends and social media fervor. And this makes sense, as sales increase for a “trending” product, the likelihood of discovering a product defect or common consumer misuse also increases. Regulators focus on popular products when monitoring the marketplace for safety issues.

As product safety lawyers, we follow the products that are likely targets for regulatory attention. Through Recalls in Review, we share our observations with you.

Our clients often ask us what happens after a recall has been completed and what to expect from a visit from a regional CPSC inspector. We advise to be prepared to demonstrate what actions were taken regarding the Corrective Action Plan (CAP). The main purpose of the inspection appears to be to provide confirmation that CAP tasks (such as distribution of retailer letters and posters) are underway and/or have been completed.

The Commission staff will check that notice of the recall is available on the company website and often go to retail establishments to look for posters.  The documents that an inspector may request at an on-site inspection include:

  1. Copies of all notifications to consumers and any other documents sent out regarding the recall;
  2. Copies or other demonstration that agreed social media was posted;
  3. If the company agreed to monitor wholesale/auction websites, records to show that such a process has been established;
  4. Records to demonstrate what the total number of units in the recall population, what inventory exists or what was done with any units under the company’s control at the start of the CAP;
  5. Incident records to confirm the total number of incidents, whether there have been new incidents discovered post-recall, and when the company first learned of incidents that gave rise to the CPSC filing.

Collecting and organizing these documents from the start can make the CPSC post-recall inspection much less time-consuming.  And the inspection can provide an opportunity to resolve any problems that may have arisen in recall execution. Much of the information requested is necessary for completion of CPSC monthly status reports and can make that process work smoothly as well.

The choices facing American consumers are no longer just “paper or plastic” or “do you want fries with that?” Today, when strolling the aisles of a grocery store, customers have the option to buy local, organic, gluten-free, low-carb, or any other of a dozen choices. The local coffee shop offers a selection of responsibly-sourced coffees, shade grown coffees, and beans from Ethiopia, Yemen, or Guatemala. What savvy companies and marketers have realized is that American consumers like choice and they like to feel good about the products they buy.

And global trends— like safety concerns about foreign-made products, interest in supporting a flagging U.S. economy, or just plain patriotism—may encourage consumers to change their buying patterns—in favor of American goods. Smart manufacturers and marketers understand this and know that customers may be willing to pay a premium for American quality goods. And so, unsurprisingly, smart companies are doing what they can to make and market products as “Made in America.”

Continue Reading “Made in America” Claims: the Landscape, FTC Guidance, and Tips for Manufacturers and Marketers

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations formally commenced on July 8, 2013. A little over a year later, the negotiators have held six rounds of negotiations. The most recent round of negotiations was held during the week of July 14-18 in Brussels, and the seventh round is now expected for D.C. in late September.

During July’s discussions, the two sides covered the full range of “market access” issues, including trade in goods, trade in services, investment, and government procurement. Negotiations included greater regulatory cooperation, widely considered to be the greatest value of the TTIP talks, with modest progress made in regards to several product sectors, including textiles and apparel (where they focused on labeling and safety issues), chemicals (where they discuss broad opportunities for cooperation), and automobiles (where talks advanced in areas like equivalence of technical regulations). Food safety also continued to be an important issue during negotiations, particularly with the leak of the EU’s proposed chapter on Sanitary and Phytosantiary Measures (SPS) prior to the start of the latest round.

Continue Reading Sixth Round of TTIP Negotiations Concludes in Brussels

On September 27, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 1162, which  requires employers with more than 15 employees to disclose pay scales to current employees and on job postings beginning January 1, 2023. The bill also requires private employers with more than 100 employees to submit significantly more pay data to the California Civil Rights Department (CRD, formerly known as the DFEH) beginning in May 2023.

Pay Scale Disclosure Requirements  

With SB 1162, California joins Colorado, Washington, and New York City in requiring employers with more than 15 employees to disclose the pay scale for a position in any job posting. “Pay scale” means the salary or hourly wage range that an employer reasonably expects to pay for the position. The bill does not specify how or if this requirement applies to postings for remote jobs that may or may not be performed in California. We expect the CRD to issue additional guidance on this and other key issues in the coming months.

Continue Reading California Requires Disclosure of Pay Scales in Job Postings and Significant New Pay Data Reporting

The FTC has been aggressive wrapping up the fiscal year before the Labor Day weekend—it initiated several actions across various industries, protecting consumers from sensitive data leak to deceptive “pre-approved” credit offers. The Commission also issued its E-Cigarette Report for 2019-2020, which highlights dramatic surge in sale of flavored disposable e-cigarettes and menthol e-cigarette cartridges. Last but not the least, the FTC is sending checks totaling more than $1.9 million to consumers who bought Hubble brand contact lenses from Vision Path, Inc. This story and more after the jump. 

Continue Reading FTC Updates (August 29-September 2, 2022)

The FTC released its policy paper and fact sheet urging state legislatures to avoid using Certificate of Public Advantage (“COPA”) laws and instead invited state lawmakers to work collaboratively with competition policy experts to minimize the potentially harmful effects of further hospital consolidation. This follows that Agency’s recent blocking of a number of healthcare provider mergers, emphasizing the Commission’s focus on preventing what it considers anticompetitive hospital mergers. The Agency also announced that it will be sending out checks totaling more than $822,000 to borrowers that lost money to a student loan debt-relief scheme. These stories after the jump.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (August 15-19, 2022)

The FTC unveiled its Proposed Rule on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security. The Commission relied on the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the Made in USA Labeling Rule to refer a complaint against personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and light fixture manufacturers. The case marks the second time the FTC has used the Made in the USA Labeling Rule to target companies for allegedly deceptive claims. Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya spoke at the National Association of Attorneys General Presidential Summit on technology threats to consumer protection. These stories and more after the jump.

Continue Reading FTC Updates (August 8-12, 2022)