Tuesday, September 9, 2008

President Signs New Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

On August 14, 2008, the President signed into law Public Law No. 110-314, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (H.R. 4040). Because of the widely-publicized recalls of imported toys, the new law establishes stringent safety provisions for children's products. However, the new provisions include a broad scope of products other than toys and are projected to affect manufacturers, importers and other distributors and retailers of consumer products.

The new law also contains provisions relating to the administrative functions that have been delegated to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission ("CPSC"), enhances the authority of the CPSC to order recalls, increases the amount of the civil penalties that the CPSC may impose, and has other miscellaneous provisions.

In addition to the new safety requirements, the civil penalties for non-compliance have increased to $100,000 for each violation with a maximum cap of $15 million for a related series of violations. The criminal penalties permit larger fines, up to five years' imprisonment, and forfeiture of assets associated with a violation. Additionally, directors, officers and agents may be criminally charged even if they were not aware of the violations. To promote compliance, employees who report violations, testify or otherwise provide assistance in CPSC enforcement proceedings, or who refuse to participate in an employer's illegal conduct will receive whistleblower protection.

The provisions that are most important to importers and exporters include:

• Requirements for self-certification and testing for imported products that are subject to the CPSC rule, effective on November 12, 2008, and third-party testing and certification of certain imported children’s products with requirements for:

- Certificates furnished by the manufacturer for every imported consumer product subject to CPSC.

- Certificates from third-party testing for toys and children’s products.

- Certificates accompanying the product.

- Procedures for filing certificates electronically may be implemented.

• Prohibition of most exports of recalled, banned, hazardous or non-conforming products to other countries.

• Policies to utilize the ITDS and increase cooperation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prevent non-compliant products from entering the United States.

• Procedures to destroy non-conforming products that have been denied admission into the United States.

Provisions of general interest include:

• New definitions for toys and children's products.

The definiition of "Children's toys" now includes consumer products "designed or intended by the manufacturer for a child 12 years of age or younger for use by the child when the child plays."

- "Child care articles" are now defined as "a consumer product designed or intended by the manufacturer to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children age 3 and younger, or to help such children with sucking or teething."

• Phased-in ban on lead all children’s products.

• Additional safety rules affecting toys and children's products, including permanent tracking labels, expanded warning requirements for choking hazards, and new rules for durable infant and toddler products to facilitate owner registration.

• More stringent recall procedures have been created by eliminating the right of a party recalling a product to elect whether they will offer a refund, repair or replacement for recalled products, and by permitting the CPSC to require a refund, repair and/or replacement as the CPSC determines to be in the public interest.

Since the provisions are likely to affect a vast majority of manufacturers, distributors and retailers, all parties are urged to read the new law and consult their attorneys and other experts to ensure compliance with the extensive changes.

No comments: