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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

Here’s a brief review of key developments concerning the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) from last month. We look forward to seeing many friends at the Annual Meeting and Training Symposium of ICPHSO in two weeks. For those who are unable to make the conference, our team plans to share daily insights so stay tuned for more important product safety updates!

Decisional Meeting on Clothing Storage Units Addresses “Tip-Over” Issue. On January 19, the CPSC adopted, by a 4-0 vote, staff’s recommendation to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Clothing Storage Units (CSUs) to address the “tip-over” issue. Notably, the Commission adopted two amendments to the proposed rule, both offered by Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr.

The first amendment pertained to the rule’s stockpiling provision. The rule presented by staff “prohibited manufacturers and importers of CSUs from manufacturing or importing CSUs that do not comply with the requirements of the proposed rule in any 12-month period between the date a rule is promulgated and the effective date of the rule at a rate that is greater than 120 percent of the rate at which they manufactured or imported CSUs during the base period for the manufacturer.” Trumka’s amendment defines the “base period” as one month out of the last 13 months with the median import or manufacture volume, and changes the percentage increase that is allowed under that base period from 120% to 105% in each month between the final rule and the effective date. It is intended to reduce the risk of stockpiling products. The Commission adopted the amendment by a vote of 4-0.
Continue Reading CPSC Insights – January 2022

Happy New Year! We hope that our readers had a very enjoyable and safe holiday season. Here’s a brief review of key developments concerning the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) from last month to help you stay aware of important product safety legislative and regulatory happenings.

CPSC Responds to Finnbinn’s Challenge on Infant Sleeper Rule. On December 17, the CPSC responded to Finnbinn’s challenge of its final rule applying the voluntary safety standard for inclined infant sleep products (ASTM F3118-17a) to all infant sleep products, including those that are “flat,” such as baby boxes and in-bed sleepers. In its responding brief, the CPSC asserts that Section 104 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which requires the agency to study and develop safety standards for infant and toddler products, gives CPSC the authority to set such a standard, even where no existing voluntary safety standard exists. According to the CPSC, to decide otherwise would “allow inaction by a voluntary standard-setting organization to preclude action by the Commission.” The agency further argued that its rule was supported by sufficient evidence, citing 11 deaths and 16 injuries associated with flat sleep products over a two-year span, which it maintained was an undercount. The primary dangers of these products, according to the agency, are that they can fall when placed on other pieces of furniture, and that products without strength and stability requirements can lead to babies falling out of the sleepers. Of note, a trio of consumer advocacy groups filed an amicus brief urging the court to uphold the safety standard’s application to flat sleep products. We will continue to follow and report on this litigation.
Continue Reading CPSC Insights – December 2021

Here’s a brief review of three key developments concerning the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) from the past month or so to help you stay aware of important product safety legislative and regulatory happenings.

The CPSC Has a New Commissioner. On November 16, the United States Senate confirmed Richard Trumka Jr. to a seven-year term on the Commission by voice vote. Mr. Trumka Jr. will replace long-time Commissioner Robert 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. Ms. Boyle’s nomination is not on the Senate Commerce Committee’s “Nominations Hearing” agenda for December 1. You can read more about Mr. Trumka Jr.’s confirmation in our prior post about his confirmation.
Continue Reading CPSC Insights – November 2021

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