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Consumer Product Safety Commission Must Use New Tools to Keep Dangerous Products Off the Market, Public Citizen Says
WASHINGTON - August 11 - Public Citizen today advised the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on several steps to take to better protect the public. They include committing to a rigorous review of the public online incident database during the first year after it launches; removing roadblocks to the enforcement of testing and certification requirements for consumer products; and publicizing performance benchmarks in pursuit of its goal to increase the speed in which it notifies the public about dangerous products.
"The CPSC is at a crucial point in implementing the mandates that Congress set out in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008," said Christine Hines, Public Citizen's consumer and civil justice counsel, who testified at the public hearing to discuss the CPSC agenda and priorities for fiscal year 2012. "We will continue to urge the commission to make decisions in favor of protecting consumers and not industry."
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, signed into law in 2008 and strongly supported by Public Citizen, added safety and testing requirements for consumer products, particularly with children's products; called for the gradual elimination of lead from products; banned phthalates in toys and children's articles; and called for the creation of a comprehensive publicly accessible consumer complaint database, among other things. The CPSC is in the process of implementing the law.
The online incident database, expected to launch in March 2011, will mark a significant shift in favor of empowering consumers to more efficiently report potential hazards and better research products before they buy, Hines said. The first year that the database is in operation will be critical. The agency likely will need to fix glitches and make it easier for consumers to use. Public Citizen urges the CPSC to be vigilant about including new product safety information and updating the database in a timely manner, she said.
Public Citizen also suggested that the agency support legislation that would require foreign manufacturers importing goods into the U.S. to maintain registered agents in the U.S. to receive notice of civil and regulatory claims initiated against them. Requiring a registered agent would empower the CPSC and consumers to hold foreign manufacturers accountable, especially given that the majority of potentially harmful consumer products are imported, Hines said.
Hines' testimony is available at http://www.citizen.org/documents/PC-oral-presentation-CPSC-agenda-and-priorities-for-hearing-final-20100810.pdf.