The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal regulatory agency that was created in 1972 by Congress in the Consumer Product Safety Act. In that law, Congress directed the Commission to "protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products."
The CPSC has jurisdiction over thousands of types of consumer products, from coffee makers to toys to lawn mowers. But some types of products, however, are covered by other federal agencies. For example, cars, trucks and motorcycles are covered by the Department of Transportation; food, drugs and cosmetics are covered by the Food and Drug Administration; and alcohol, tobacco and firearms are within the jurisdiction of the Department of the Treasury.
What the CPSC Does
CPSC works to reduce the risk of injuries and deaths from consumer products by:
• developing voluntary standards with industry
• issuing and enforcing mandatory standards; banning consumer products if no standard would adequately protect the public
• obtaining the recall of products and arranging for their repair, replacement or a refund
• conducting research on potential product hazards
• informing and educating consumers through the media, state and local governments, private organizations, and by responding to consumer inquiries.
How the CPSC Can Help
If you've had a safety problem with a consumer product, here's how to get in touch with the CPSC:
• To report an unsafe consumer product to CPSC online, visit www.saferproducts.gov, or call CPSC’s toll-free Hotline at (800) 638-2772, or (301) 595-7054 for the hearing and speech impaired.
• See a list of free CPSC safety guides at https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/ Print out safety guides on your printer. Many can be ordered. To order copies of safety guides, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772.
• Visit CPSC’s Information Centers at https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/ for product safety information.
• For questions related to consumer product safety, email CPSC at email@example.com or write to us at U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Obligations to Report Dangerous and Defective Products
Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of consumer products have a legal obligation to immediately report the following types of information to the CPSC:
• A defective product that could create a substantial risk of injury to consumers;
• A product that creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death;
• A product that fails to comply with an applicable consumer product safety rule or with any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban under the CPSA or any other statute enforced by the CPSC;
• An incident in which a child (regardless of age) chokes on a marble, small ball, latex balloon, or other small part contained in a toy or game and that, as a result of the incident, the child dies, suffers serious injury, ceases breathing for any length of time, or is treated by a medical professional; and
• Certain types of lawsuits. (This applies to manufacturers and importers only and is subject to the time periods detailed in Sec. 37 of the CPSA.)
Failure to fully and immediately report this information may lead to substantial civil or criminal penalties. CPSC staff’s advice is “when in doubt, report.”
CPSC has compiled a recall handbook with detailed information. The handbook:
• Teaches you how to recognize potentially hazardous consumer products as soon as possible;
• Explains how to develop and implement a “corrective action plan” (called a CAP) to address the hazards;
• Explains CPSC’s Fast Track Program; and
• Discusses how to communicate recall information to consumers and how to monitor product recalls.
If I suspect a product I manufactured, imported, distributed, offered to sell, or sold might be a hazard, how much time do I have to report this to the CPSC?
A company must report to the Commission within 24 hours of obtaining reportable information. The Commission encourages companies to report potential substantial product hazards even while their own investigations are continuing. But if a company is truly uncertain whether information is reportable, the firm may spend a reasonable time investigating the matter.
If a company has actual knowledge that the Commission has been adequately informed of the defect or failure to comply by another responsible party, the company need not submit a report to the Commission. Documentation demonstrating that another party has already reported to CPSC is recommended.
Firms may determine this as part of their investigation by contacting other companies in the product’s supply chain. CPSC is generally restricted from sharing this type of information with companies due to confidentiality requirements. If a firm is unsure whether CPSC has been adequately informed of a defect or risk or failure to comply with a consumer product safety rule, the firm must report that information to CPSC.
The company’s investigation to determine whether to report to the CPSC should not exceed 10 working days, unless the firm can demonstrate that a longer time is reasonable under the circumstances. Absent such circumstances, the Commission will presume that, at the end of 10 working days, the company has received and considered all information that would have been available to it had it undertaken a reasonable, expeditious, and diligent investigation.
What if I receive information that reasonably suggests my product could create a safety or health hazard but no reports have been received alleging that actual harm or injury has been suffered?
You must immediately report the information about the product. The law does not require injury or harm to have occurred.
Does filing a report with the CPSC mean that the CPSC is definitely going to recall my product?
No. Reporting a product to the Commission under Section 15 of the CPSA does not mean that the Commission will conclude automatically that a corrective action is necessary.
The CPSC staff will evaluate the report and work with the reporting firm to determine if corrective action is appropriate. Many of the reports the CPSC receives require no corrective action because the CPSC staff concludes that the reported product defect does not create a substantial product hazard.
In the case of reporting a non-compliance with the CPSC safety requirements, there are other options that the CPSC staff may consider short of a recall, for example, correcting a non-compliant label in future production.
How do I know if the CPSC is already aware of a possible health or safety risk with a product?
Confidentiality requirements generally restrict the CPSC from publishing lists of product reports received from manufacturers, importers, distributors, or retailers, or from disclosing matters in active investigation.
Does the Commission treat the information reported as confidential?
Yes. Under Section 6(b)(5) of the CPSA the Commission and its employees may not publicly disclose information reported under Section 15, unless the Commission has:
• Filed a legal complaint alleging that a product presents a substantial product hazard;
• Has entered into a remedial settlement agreement dealing with a product;
• Has published a public health or safety finding; or
• The manufacturer consents to its disclosure. (Also see 16 CFR 1015.18).
Section 6(b)(5) of the CPSA also applies to any information reported under Section 102 of the Child Safety Protection Act. See 16 CFR 1117.7. In addition to the protections of Section 6(b)(5), additional information disclosure protections are provided under Sections 6(a) and (b)(1) of the CPSA.
Section 37 of the CPSA requires manufacturers of consumer products to report information about settled or adjudicated lawsuits. Under Section 6(e) of the CPSA, the Commission and its employees may not publicly disclose information reported under Section 37 of the CPSA, except that such information may be furnished to the reporting manufacturer or Congress, under certain circumstances.
By law, reporting under Section 37 is not an admission of the existence of an unreasonable risk of injury, a defect, a substantial product hazard, an imminent hazard, or any other liability under any statute or common law. Information provided voluntarily that is in addition to information required to be reported under Section 37, is governed by the confidentiality provisions of Section 15 reports.
Whistleblower Protections for Consumer Product Industry Workers
If you work for a company that manufactures, imports, distributes, brands or sells consumer products, your employer may not fire or retaliate against you because you provided, caused to be provided, or are about to provide or cause to be provided to the employer, the federal government, or the attorney general of a state, information relating to any violation of, or any act or omission that you reasonably believe to be a violation of any law, order, rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by the CPSC.
For more information:
see the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at www.osha.gov
download the OSHA factsheet online at
www.whistleblowers.gov for more information on these protections and how to file a complaint.