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    Consumer Product Safety Law
       
     
    ***Special Bulletin***


    Consumer Product Safety Commission Regains Full Authority; Companies Recall Millions of Toys Made in China; Agency Steps Up Enforcement

    President Bush signed legislation on August 3, 2007, allowing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) to regain its full authority to oversee the safety of thousands of consumer products.  The CPSC has had a vacancy for about a year since the resignation of Chairman Harold (“Hal”) Stratton and has lacked the requisite three-member quorum to officially meet and take action, including ordering mandatory recalls, adopting safety rules or assessing civil penalties.  The legislation extends the CPSC’s full authority for a period of six months.

    According to The Washington Post (“Lawmakers Return Clout to Safety Commission,” August 4, 2007, D-2), Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) “pushed the amendment [tacked onto a homeland security bill] to restore the commission’s full power after a spate of product recalls, including several involving imports from China.”  The Post reported Pryor stating that “[w]hat we have here is an agency in distress.”

    Recent recalls involving an unprecedented number of imports from China have received significant attention in the print and broadcast media.  In June RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, Illinois, recalled about 1.5 million toy trains manufactured in China because of lead paint content.  Last week Mattel recalled over 8 million toys manufactured in China due to either lead paint content or small magnets coming loose from the toys, which could be ingested or aspirated by children. 

    On the litigation front, the CPSC recently announced the filing of United States of America v. Ardisam Inc. alleging that the company located in Cumberland, Wisconsin, failed to timely report information that its hunting tree stands could present a safety hazard to consumers.  The lawsuit, seeking civil penalties of up to $1,650,000 for each alleged violation or series of violations, is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Consumer Litigation Division, on behalf of the CPSC.  Acting Chairman Nancy Nord (a President Bush appointee) said that “[t]he law is clear – companies must immediately tell the CPSC about products that could pose a substantial risk or create an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.” 

    Earlier this year (March 9) the CPSC announced a $975,000 civil penalty settlement with Fisher-Price, resolving allegations that the company was late in notifying the agency that ringed nail fasteners could disengage from a toy.  The settlement order (Fisher Price, Inc. - Settlement Agreement & Order) sets forth the allegations and the company’s response as reported in the Federal Register.

    The legislated authority, colossal recalls, prosecution of a federal case for penalties and announcement of a civil penalty just shy of $1 million have substantially heightened the profile – and perhaps scrutiny – of the agency, which seldom finds itself in front-page reports of the nation’s leading newspapers. 

    In this environment it bears repeating that Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act requires manufacturers, importers and retailers to notify the CPSC “immediately” upon receiving information that “reasonably supports the conclusion” that a product (a) “contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard” or (b) “creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.”  Manufacturers, retailers, distributors and importers subject to the CPSC’s jurisdiction could face civil penalties of up to $1.8 million if the CPSC concludes that the company did not notify the agency of a potential safety issue or did not do so in a timely fashion.

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    Consumer Product Safety Practice Group

    Kerrie Campbell
    202.585.6526

    Christopher A. Cole
    202.585.6524

    Elise Dang
    212.790.4613

    R. Bruce Dickson
    202.585.6522

    Stanley W. Levy
    310.312.4379

    Amy Terry Sheehan
    212.790.4548

    Svetlana Walker
    202.585.6533

    Ivan Wasserman
    202.585.6529

    Michael White
    202.585.6518

    Advertising, Marketing & Media Group

    Danny Andrews
    310.312.4206

    Michael Barkow
    212.790.4590

    Lauren Reiter Brody
    212.790.4518

    Kim S. Brown
    212.790.4503

    Alan M. Brunswick
    310.312.4213

    Kerrie Campbell
    202.585.6526

    Gregory A. Clarick
    212.790.4525

    Christopher A. Cole
    202.585.6524

    George A. Cooke
    212.790.4538

     Elise Dang
    212.790.4613

    Jennifer Deitch Lavie
    212.790.4595

    R. Bruce Dickson
    202.585.6522

    Jeffrey S. Edelstein
    212.790.4533

    Gene R. Elerding
    310.312.4158

    Tamar Feder
    310.312.4161

    Clayton S. Friedman
    714.338.2704

    Seth A. Gold
    310.312.4371

    Linda A. Goldstein
    212.790.4544

    William M. Heberer
    212.790.4566

    Susan E. Hollander
    650.812.1344

    Angela C. Hurdle
    212.790.4574

    Felix H. Kent
    212.790.4588

    Christopher T. Koegel
    202.585.6563

    Charulata B. Pagar
    310.312.4155

    Kimo Peluso
    212.790.4570

    Jill M. Pietrini
    310.312.4325

    Lindsay M. Schoen
    212.790.4504

    Brad W. Seiling
    310.312.4234

    Amy Terry Sheehan
    212.790.4548

    Lauren Tang
    714.338.2706

    Carly Van Orman
    202.585.6539

    Svetlana Walker
    202.585.6533

    Kathrin A. Wanner
    310.312.4178

    Charles E. Washburn, Jr.
    310.312.4372

    Ivan Wasserman
    202.585.6529