U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

Despite imposing onerous new compliance terms, the recently announced Vornado civil penalty was criticized by three commissioners as too low amid their urgent calls for larger penalties in the future. On July 7, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a $7.5 million civil penalty settlement with manufacturer of air circulation products, Vornado Air (Vornado). Vornado agreed to pay the civil penalty to resolve charges that the Company knowingly failed to immediately report allegedly defective electric space heaters to the CPSC under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). The Commission voted 4-0-1 to provisionally accept the settlement. Notably, three of the agency’s five commissioners published individual statements alongside the agency’s announcement of the penalty, which is atypical. The statements provide product safety stakeholders with insights on how the “new” Commission views civil penalties and its enforcement authority. 

Continue Reading “Wiping the Slate Clean”— CPSC Commissioners Signal Higher Penalties to Come in Wake of Vornado Penalty Resolution

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Mary Boyle to serve as a commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) by a vote of 50-48. For the first time since late October 2019, when then-Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle departed the agency, the Commission will have a full complement of five commissioners. And, most notably, for the first time since May 2018, the Democrats will hold a voting majority.     

As soon as Ms. Boyle is sworn in, she will join Democratic Commissioners Alexander Hoehn-Saric and Richard Trumka Jr. and Republicans Dana Baiocco and Peter Feldman. As we wrote last July when President Biden announced her nomination, Ms. Boyle is well known to the product safety community. She knows the inner-workings of the CPSC as well as anybody as she has served most recently as the agency’s Executive Director. She has also served as the agency’s acting General Counsel. Interestingly, Ms. Boyle is the second Executive Director of the agency recently nominated for the Commission, as President Obama nominated then-Executive Director Elliot Kaye to be Chairman.

Continue Reading Senate Confirms Mary Boyle to CPSC; Democrats Reclaim Majority

Earlier this week, President Biden signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act into law. The new statute does two things. First, it bans infant inclined sleepers with an inclined sleep surface greater than ten degrees that are intended for infants up to age one. Second, it bans crib bumpers. When the Act takes effect in November, both products will be considered “banned hazardous products” under Section 8 of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

These infant products have also been the subject of recent rulemaking activity by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This sets up at least one potential conflict of law. Where the Safe Sleep for Babies Act bans infant inclined sleepers intended for infants up to age one, the CPSC rule affected only sleepers intended for infants up to 5 months old.
Continue Reading President Biden Signs Safe Sleep Act, Banning Infant Inclined Sleepers and Crib Bumpers

This afternoon, CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric gave remarks to the annual conference of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO). As many of our readers know, the Senate confirmed Mr. Hoehn-Saric on October 7, 2021 to a six-year term. This was Hoehn-Saric’s first year addressing the annual ICPHSO conference.

Notably, Chairman Hoehn-Saric picked up right where then-Acting Chairman Robert Adler left off at the 2021 annual conference—the need for the agency to approach product safety from a variety of diverse viewpoints. The Chairman cited startling statistics concerning the significantly higher rates at which African Americans drown in swimming pools and minorities suffer from CO exposure from portable generators than their White counterparts. The Chairman stated that targeting underserved, often minority, communities would be a priority for the Commission in the months and years ahead.
Continue Reading Live from ICPHSO – New CPSC Chairman Hoehn-Saric Addresses Annual Conference

Supply chain issues are a top concern for many companies across industries and markets. Please join Crowell & Moring for a webinar series that explores these issues and provides insights on the various legal and tactical considerations as companies think about supply chain disruption, impacts, and solutions.

Torts & Product Liability Issues
Wednesday, January 12,

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

With the winter holiday season approaching, many families are looking forward to hard-earned vacations and fun activities with their loved ones. And many will be looking to ride, rent, or purchase recreational vehicles for some fun—from all-terrain vehicles (“ATVs”) and golf cars to off-road motorcycles and snowmobiles. Thus, as we head into the winter season, we turn our attention to Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) regulatory actions involving recreational and utility vehicles for this month’s installment of “Recalls in Review.”
Continue Reading Recalls in Review: Recreational and Utility Vehicles

On Tuesday evening, the United States Senate confirmed Richard Trumka Jr. to a seven-year term on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) by voice vote. Mr. Trumka Jr. will replace long-time Commissioner Bob Adler whose term expired last month. Importantly, with Mr. Trumka Jr.’s confirmation, the Commission will remain comprised of two Democratic (Hoehn-Saric and Trumka Jr.) and two Republican (Baiocco and Feldman) Commissioners. The Democrats will not have a majority on the Commission until current Biden nominee (and CPSC Executive Director) Mary Boyle is confirmed by the Senate—and the status of that nomination remains unclear.
Continue Reading Senate Confirms Trumka Jr. for Consumer Product Safety Commission; Adler to Retire After Twelve Year Run as Commissioner and Lifetime of Service to Agency

In one of the most significant developments in product safety law over the past decade, Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai, Hong Kong Gree Electric Appliances Sales Co. Ltd., and Gree USA Inc. (the “Gree Companies”), an appliance manufacturer and two of its subsidiaries, have pled guilty to willfully failing to report to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the CPSC, the Gree Companies knew their dehumidifiers were defective, failed to meet applicable safety standards, and could catch fire, but failed to timely report that information to the CPSC. Section 19 of the CPSA makes it unlawful to fail to furnish information required by Section 15(b), and such failures are subject to both civil and criminal penalties. While CPSC civil penalties have become fairly routine—the Gree Companies also paid a then-record $15.45 million civil penalty in 2016—this is the first corporate criminal enforcement action brought under the CPSA, according to the DOJ. 
Continue Reading Silence Isn’t Golden: Failure to Report Consumer Product Safety Issues Results in Rare $91 Million Criminal Penalty

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

As businesses brace for anticipated supply chain delays in the coming months, many stores are already offering impressive deals to early holiday shoppers.  Recognizing that numerous popular products contain magnets, we turn our attention to CPSC regulatory actions involving magnets in this month’s installment of “Recalls in Review.”

At least 58 recalls involving magnets have been conducted since 1998, with 56 of those recalls occurring after 2005.  The CPSC began monitoring magnets, magnet sets, and products containing magnets very closely in 2007, recalling eleven products amid reports that children were swallowing magnets and experiencing severe internal injuries.  Similar recalls continued into 2008 and were accompanied by an increase in recalls of magnets for violations of the federal lead paint standard.

Unlike many other consumer products, no mandatory federal safety standard exists specifically to regulate magnets or magnet sets.  The CPSC attempted to promulgate a mandatory federal safety standard to address high-powered magnets and published the regulation on October 3, 2014.  Under the rule, magnets intended for use as part of a magnet set and that fit the CPSC’s definition of a “small part” could not have a flux index above the specified level.  However, the rule was ultimately vacated by a federal court and removed from the Code of Federal Regulations.  Still, the CPSC continues to monitor and recall high-powered magnets.  The CPSC first sued Zen Magnets LLC in 2012 over their high-powered “Zen Magnets Rare Earth Magnet Balls” to force a recall of the products after discussions with the company failed to result in a voluntary recall plan.  The Zen Magnets recall was finally announced in August 2021.


Continue Reading Recalls in Review: Magnet-Related Recalls

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