U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

For the first time since February 2017, when then-Chairman Elliot Kaye stepped down as leader of the agency, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a permanent chairman. On October 7, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Alexander Hoehn-Saric as Chairman (and Commissioner) of the CPSC by voice vote. Hoehn-Saric’s confirmation comes on the heels of some partisan wrangling at the Commission during which Republican Commissioners Dana Baiocco and Peter Feldman successfully amended the Commission’s FY22 Operating Plan by a 2-1 vote over the strong opposition of then-Acting (Democratic) Chairman Robert Adler. Given Adler’s plea following that vote for the (Democrat-held) Senate to confirm the pending nominations of Hoehn-Saric, and Richard Trumka Jr., and Mary Boyle, President Biden’s two other recent nominees, Hoehn-Saric’s swift confirmation was likely no coincidence.
Continue Reading Senate Confirms Hoehn-Saric as Chairman of CPSC

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

As children head back to the classroom this Fall, the CPSC issued a news release reminding parents to “Think Safety First” as kids return to schools.  Recognizing that many back-to-school shopping carts also include new clothes and pajamas, we look back at CPSC regulatory actions involving Children’s Sleepwear in this month’s installment of “Recalls in Review.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has regulated the flammability of children’s sleepwear since at least the 1970s.  In addition to other safety standards imposed on children’s products, children’s sleepwear is governed by Federal Safety Standards for the Flammability of Children’s Sleepwear based on sizing of the garments (16 CFR Part 1615 and 16 CFR Part 1616).  The regulations apply to any product of wearing apparel, such as nightgowns, pajamas, or similar or related items, such as robes, that is intended to be worn primarily for sleeping or activities related to sleeping.  Specific items—including diapers, underwear, and certain infant tight-fitting garments—are exempted from the definition of children’s sleepwear.

The CPSC began monitoring the safety of children’s sleepwear more closely in 2011.  At least 82 recalls of children’s sleepwear have been conducted since 2001, with 77 of those recalls occurring after 2010.  Only a handful of related recalls were conducted prior to 2001.  However, at least 11 civil penalties relating to children’s sleepwear were issued between 1980 and 2001, with somewhat dated fines ranging from $3,500 to $850,000.


Continue Reading Recalls in Review: Children’s Sleepwear

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

As we launch into the third quarter of 2021, we have taken a look back to identify and highlight trends from the CPSC’s recalls through the first half of the year.  The Commission has conducted 134 total recalls so far this year—about ten fewer recalls than in the first half of 2020.  The types of products recalled vary widely, including ATVs and UTVs, bicycles, kitchen appliances and cooking utensils, exercise equipment, toys, essential oils, portable generators, charging cords, and heavy machinery, among many others.

Some product categories have appeared on a repeat basis this year, including: furniture, recreational vehicles, such as ATVs, UTVs, and motor bikes, and children’s clothing.  The Commission has recalled furniture and recreational vehicles at a fairly consistent rate since January. The rate of recalls for recreational vehicles, which have historically been highly regulated, is on par with 2020 and past years as well.  However, the recalls of children’s clothing began much later in the year.  That upswing is largely attributable to recalls of children’s jackets and sleepwear.


Continue Reading Recalls in Review: Recall Trends in 2021

Last month, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) announced that she has reintroduced legislation—the Total Recall Act—to change the way that businesses notify the public about recalls.  The text of the legislation can be found here.

H.R. 3724, entitled the “Total Recall Act,” requires firms engaged in a product recall to post recall notices on their websites and all social media accounts, and also spend a defined amount of money on publicizing the recall depending upon whether it is mandatory or voluntary.  For a mandatory recall, which is an incredibly rare event, businesses would be required to expend a sum of money that equals at least 25% of what the firm spent on marketing the product prior to its recall.  On the other hand, for common voluntary recalls, firms would be required to use at least 25% of the product’s original marketing budget as well as 100% of the product’s social media marketing budget on publicizing the recall.  The bill would also mandate that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provide an annual report to Congress on participation rates for each recall.
Continue Reading Product Recall Notification Legislation Reintroduced in Congress

The July 4th holiday weekend started a tad late for those of us who practice in the field of consumer product safety.  Late Friday afternoon, the White House announced that President Biden has nominated two new commissioners to serve on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)—Alexander Hoehn-Saric and Mary Boyle.  Both are Democrats and, once confirmed, will shift the balance of power at the Commission to a 3-2 split between Democrats and Republicans.  This development is significant to say the least—the Democrats have not held three seats on the Commission since May 2018 and there has not been a permanent chairman of the agency since President Trump removed then-Chairman (and now Commissioner) Elliot Kaye in February 2017.

If confirmed, Mr. Hoehn-Saric will become the new—permanent—chairman of the Commission, while Ms. Boyle will replace Commissioner Kaye who is currently serving in his “hold-over” year as his term expired last October.  Current Acting Chairman Robert Adler will remain on the Commission as the third Democratic commissioner until his term expires in October and he retires from the agency as previously announced.  These three will be joined by current Republican Commissioners Peter Feldman and Dana Baiocco to give the five-member Commission a full complement of commissioners.  Of course, if these nominations stall and/or current members of the Commission depart the agency in the coming months (e.g., Adler), other possibilities with respect to the balance of power are conceivable.
Continue Reading Breaking: Hoehn-Saric and Boyle Nominated to CPSC; Democratic Majority in Sight

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

Although members of the House and Senate don’t agree on everything lately, they have come together in efforts to ensure safety of products intended for use by infants and small children.  In today’s installment of “Recalls in Review,” we look back at CPSC regulatory actions involving Pacifiers and Pacifier Accessories.

A pacifier rule was first proposed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1972 before the Federal Hazardous Substances Act was transferred to the CPSC.  The CPSC has regulated pacifiers and pacifier accessories regularly since 1976, when the Commission proposed a substantially revised regulation after investigations by CPSC staff revealed at least eight infant deaths associated with pacifiers.  Pacifiers must now comply with the Federal Safety Standard for Pacifiers, 16 CFR Part 1511, and the U.S. Toy Standard, ASTM F963-17.  And although pacifier clips do not fall under the definition of “pacifiers” in the safety standard, they must still meet separate children’s product safety requirements, such as the Small Parts regulation (16 CFR Part 1501).  Additionally, pacifiers may not be sold with any ribbon, string, cord, or similar attachment.

At least sixty-six pacifier-related products have occurred to date, with thirty-two of the recalls occurring since 2001.  Enforcement has been roughly consistent over the years; the largest number of recalls in any single year totaled six recalls in 2009.


Continue Reading Recalls in Review: Pacifier and Accessory Recalls

On May 21, 2021, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (“CPSC”) published a report on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in consumer products. The report highlights recent CPSC staff activity concerning AI and ML, proposes a framework for evaluating the potential safety impact of AI and ML capabilities in consumer products, and makes several recommendations that the CPSC can take in identifying and addressing potential hazards related to AI and ML capabilities in consumer products.

Concerning staff activity, CPSC recently hired a Chief Technologist with a background in AI and ML to address the use of AI in consumer products. The CPSC also recently established an “AI/ML Working Group” and held a virtual forum on AI and ML in March 2021.

Informed by the discussions held with various stakeholders at this forum, the CPSC staff has proposed a framework in the report for evaluating the potential safety impact of AI and ML in consumer products. The framework’s first step involves screening products for AI and ML “components.” The CPSC and stakeholders have identified the following components to be essential to producing an AI capability: data sources, algorithms, computations, and connections. Likewise, the CPSC and stakeholders have found the following components to define ML capabilities: assessing and monitoring outputs, analyzing and modeling changes, and adjusting and adapting behavior over time. The framework’s second step involves assessing the functions and features of consumer products’ AI and ML capabilities. The third step involves understanding how products’ AI and ML capabilities may impact consumers, which can be accomplished by studying the nature of the technology, how it is implemented in the product, and how the consumer might use the product. The final step involves ascertaining if, and to what extent, AI and ML capabilities may transform the product and/or its use over time.
Continue Reading CPSC Publishes Report on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

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

As more communities lift pandemic-based restrictions on travel and social gathering sizes, Americans will increasingly begin moving homes and renovating furnished rental and guest rooms—which often includes replacing older mattresses.  Historically, mattresses were highly flammable and contributed significantly to house fires, leading Congress to address the safety concern through its enactment of the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) in the 1970s.

Through the FFA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has authority to regulate mattresses and mattress pads, including setting a federal flammability standard (16 C.F.R. § 1632), which was promulgated in 1973 to require ignition resistance of mattresses and mattress pads to smoldering cigarettes.  The standard applies to mattresses—including traditional mattresses of all sizes, crib mattresses, futons, mattresses in sleeper sofas and campers, and water bed and air mattresses containing upholstery materials—and mattress pads and covers.  The federal Standard for the Flammability (Open-Flame) of Mattress Sets (16 C.F.R. § 1633), which became effective in 2007, was designed to increase the time that consumers have to discover and escape bed fires by limiting the size of the fire generated by a mattress set.  Mattresses must meet the performance, labeling, and record keeping requirements of both standards as applicable before the products can be entered into commerce in the United States.


Continue Reading Recalls in Review: Mattress Recalls

Shortly after taking office, President Biden announced an “all of government” approach to achieving environmental justice. In Executive Order (E.O.) 14008, “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” President Biden stated that his administration would secure environmental justice for all Americans by addressing the disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts in minority communities. In the several months that have passed since E.O. 14008 was issued, federal agencies, including the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (“CPSC”), have begun implementing the administration’s policy by prioritizing equity and evaluating cumulative impacts in their policymaking.

In March 2021, CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler released an unprecedented statement emphasizing the CPSC’s “strong and ongoing commitment to diversity and equity.” The first of CPSC’s two-part 2021 Mid-Year Plan seeks to address the disproportionate safety risks that minority communities face with respect to consumer products. Under the plan, the CPSC will conduct safety equity studies to “determine whether there are specific areas of risk within ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, and other diverse populations” that face more danger from high-risk products. Specifically, the study will evaluate safety risks amongst different demographic groups, particularly in falls, drownings, and poisonings. The agency will use this data to inform future outreach and develop equitable safety standards. In addition, the CPSC has allocated funding to safety campaigns that highlight the unique risks and needs of diverse and vulnerable communities. Campaign messaging will include topics such as poison prevention, consumer product chemical safety, and other safety education information targeted to vulnerable communities.
Continue Reading Biden’s Environmental Justice Push and its Impact on Retailers’ ESG Considerations

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued new guidance and labeling instructions for the nationwide standard for upholstered furniture flammability.  On May 19, 2021, the CPSC published an online Q&A that provides important information to industry and previews the agency’s enforcement outlook.

The Q&A guidance confirms that the standard is effective as of June 25, 2021 but does not apply to items manufactured, imported, or reupholstered before June 25, 2021.  Industry has more time to implement the new labeling requirements:  the Q&A restates that the labeling requirement begins on June 25, 2022 and only applies to upholstered furniture manufactured, imported, or reupholstered on or after that date.


Continue Reading CPSC Issues Guidance on New Upholstered Furniture Flammability Standard