U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

On April 30, 2024, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) published a direct final rule related to pre-filled portable fuel containers and the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act (“PFCSA”), 15 U.S.C. 2056d. The Act directed the CPSC to require flammable, liquid fuel containers of fewer than five gallons and intended for transport to include devices that impede flames from entering the container. Congress gave the CPSC the authority to either promulgate a rule or adopt an existing standard. Additionally, the Act requires the CPSC to educate consumers about dangers associated with using or storing such containers near an open flame or a source of ignition.Continue Reading Changes to CPSC’s Portable Fuel Container Safety Act Regulation Could Come as Soon as This Summer

Greetings from Orlando, FL! The Crowell product safety team is currently attending the annual meeting and training symposium of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO). We just heard keynote remarks from the Chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Alexander Hoehn-Saric, and wish to share some highlights. As he did in October 2023 at the ICPHSO International Conference in Sweden, Chair Hoehn-Saric focused his remarks on addressing products sold on or through online marketplaces.

Chair Hoehn-Saric first set the stage by sharing some important data points. In 2023, the CPSC announced more than 300 product recalls; levied more than $52 million in civil penalties; engaged in 14 new mandatory safety standard rulemakings; screened more than 60,000 harmful products at the ports; and participated in numerous safety education campaigns. He also noted the budget uncertainty at the CPSC and the need to “do more with less” and stated that the CPSC will always “put consumers first” as they prioritize their work should the CPSC budget decrease.Continue Reading CPSC Chair Hoehn-Saric Addresses Annual Product Safety Conference  

On January 25, 2024, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), introduced the Consumer Advocacy and Protection (CAP) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 7096) and U.S. Senate (S 3667). The CAP Act aims to deter companies from committing safety violations by increasing CPSC’s penalty authority.

Under current law, manufacturers, importers, and distributors of consumer products are required to report immediately to the CPSC information that reasonably supports the conclusion that a product contains a defect that could create a substantial product hazard or an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. If violations occur, the applicable civil penalty is a maximum of $100,000 per individual violation and $15,000,000 for a series of related violations. These amounts were adjusted for inflation in 2021, reaching $120,000 per violation and $17,150,000 for a series of related violations.Continue Reading New Bill Could Mean Higher Penalties for Failure to Report Safety Concerns

On May 5, 2023, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) announced that it agreed to a civil penalty settlement with Generac Power Systems, Inc., (“Generac”) to resolve charges that Generac failed to report immediately to the CPSC under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (“CPSA”). Specifically, the CPSC alleged that certain models of Generac’s portable generators contained a defect that could create a substantial product hazard and unreasonable risk of serious injury to consumers. This settlement includes a $15,800,000 civil penalty, and requirements that Generac (1) implement and maintain a compliance program and system of internal controls and procedures designed to ensure compliance with the CPSA; and (2) file annual reports with the agency for the next three years regarding the Company’s compliance program, internal controls and procedures, internal audits of the effectiveness of the new compliance program and internal controls.Continue Reading CPSC and Company Reach Agreement on $15.8 Million Civil Penalty for Failure to Report

Last Thursday, April 6, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sued SunSetter Products LP (SunSetter) in a Massachusetts federal court in a rare civil penalty lawsuit. SunSetter manufactures motorized retractable awnings for outdoor use. The Government alleges in its complaint that SunSetter knowingly failed to timely report under Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) a hazardous defect related to vinyl covers for its retractable awnings. The complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief, including a third-party monitorship over the company, and civil penalties.Continue Reading CPSC Seeks Civil Penalty Against SunSetter in Rare Federal Court Action

Companies take note: over the past month or so, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued four unilateral press releases instructing consumers to stop using a product. Since May of this year, that number rises to seven. If that number does not seem high, consider this: between 2011 and 2019—a nine-year period—the agency issued two. So, what exactly is a “unilateral press release” and what does the agency’s issuance of four over recent weeks mean for you?Continue Reading CPSC Enforcement Trend: Unilateral Press Releases

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