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Product Safety Alert: CPSC Public Database Now Live

Date: Apr 18, 2011

Pursuant to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has now established a new publicly available product safety database, which permits consumers to directly submit "reports of harm" to the database. The database, available at www.SaferProducts.gov, allows consumers to submit information on injuries or the possible "risk of injury, illness or death," resulting from use of those consumer products under CPSC's oversight. Such products include toys, juvenile and other children's products; fireworks; electronics; furniture; hobby; kitchen; sports and recreation; yard and garden; home improvement, heating, cooling and cooking appliances; clothing and accessories; and many more. The SaferProducts portal also allows manufacturers, importers, and private labelers to register to receive reports of harm, post responses, and request that reports of harm not be posted where they contain "material inaccuracies" or confidential business information.

Mr. Jeffrey Hilsgen, CPSC's Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, recently gave a presentation to industry members in Shanghai, China, in an attempt to educate local producers about the major facets of the database and to urge companies to register. CPSC tracks statistics about where recalled products are manufactured, and the largest percentage of recalled products in the U.S. are made in China. In this regard, CPSC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in an attempt to ensure the quality, safety, and proper labeling of consumer products imported into the U.S.

Reports of harm submitted via the SaferProducts website must provide the following information:

  • Description of the consumer product
  • Identity of the manufacturer or private labeler
  • Description of the harm
  • Incident date (or approximate date)
  • Submitter categorization (e.g., consumer, government agency, healthcare professional, child service provider, etc.)
  • Submitter contact information
  • Verification of submitter
  • Consent of submitter

Where practicable, within 5 business days after receiving a report of harm which provides all required information, the CPSC is to transmit the report to the identified manufacturer, private labeler, or agent. The CPSC will publish the report online within 10 business days of transmitting it to the identified party unless it has determined that the report includes confidential information or there is a "material inaccuracy." Upon receiving notice of a report of harm from CPSC, the company may (1) post comment(s) in response to the report of harm; (2) claim the report of harm contains confidential business information, triggering CPSC review of the claim; or (3) claim the report of harm contains materially inaccurate information (e.g., incorrect manufacturer referenced), triggering CPSC review of the claim.

Given these demanding deadlines, companies with products subject to CPSC regulation should register as soon as possible at https://www.saferproducts.gov/CPSRMSPublic/Industry/Home.aspx to receive prompt reports from CPSC, thus maximizing the available time for review and response. Companies that do not register on the SaferProducts website to receive electronic notifications of reports of harm will receive them via postal mail, in which case the timeframe for responding may well have passed. Many manufacturers, importers and distributors of consumer products marketed in the U.S. have foreign suppliers that will need to be contacted to adequately respond to these reports. Manufacturer identification is proving especially difficult with private label products, which are often sourced from multiple manufacturers.

CPSC's interpretation of the database requirements allows even those who do not have first-hand knowledge of an alleged incident to file a report. The limited time for businesses to respond and likelihood that reports will be posted even where a material inaccuracy is identified have raised concern by the business community. Issues related to the database and to problems associated with CPSIA's framework, which imposes strict total content limits on lead and phthalates irrespective of actual risk, an illusory or non-existent exemption process, and rigid testing scheme, were the topic of a Congressional subcommittee hearing on April 7, 2011. While CPSIA reform discussions continue, businesses should nevertheless register with the database

For more information on product safety, contact Sheila A. Millar (millar@khlaw.com), or Jean-Cyril Walker (walker@khlaw.com). For a copy of Ms. Millar's testimony at the April 7, 2011 hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Manufacturing, click here.