The purpose of this paper is to introduce the reader to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We will review the function of the Commission, discuss the responsibility of businesses under the statutes enforced by the Commission, and provide information relevant to consumers.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal agency established in 1972 by Congress under the Consumer Product Safety Act. It began operation in 1973. The Commission has approximately 480 employees and is headed by three commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The commissioners serve staggered 7-year terms.
The mission of the CPSC is to "protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products." They have jurisdiction over 15,000 types of consumer products and issue safety standards for items ranging from bicycle helmets to matchbooks to swimming pool slides.
(Certain other consumer products are covered by other federal agencies. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard covers boats and the Food and Drug Administration regulates drugs.).
In addition to issuing mandatory product safety standards, they can also ban a product (such as lead-containing paint) if no feasible standard would adequately protect consumers. If the commission finds a product that is hazardous but there is no mandatory product safety standard, they will work with the manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer to develop a plan that may include design changes, repair or recall of the product. While the CPSC prefers to work in cooperation with firms, they will resort to litigation when necessary.
All manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers, regardless of size or income, must comply with the five laws enforced by the CPSC.