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CPSC Enforcement Actions

Summary: This page is devoted to giving a flavor for how CPSC enforces its regulations. Segments of various press releases, some of them old, explain a few of the details of CPSC recalls and provide a sample of the penalties paid by manufacturers for violations. For more recent penalty assessments in the worst cases, see our CPSC Jail Page.

CPSC Issues Safety Alert on Bassinets

August 28, 2008

New legislation giving CPSC new powers to act when a firm will not recall its product made it possible for the agency to issue a "Safety Alert" on Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets. The press release says "CPSC is issuing this safety alert because SFCA Inc., the company which purchased all of Simplicity Inc.'s assets at public auction in April 2008, has refused to cooperate with the government and recall the products. SFCA maintains that it is not responsible for products previously manufactured by Simplicity Inc." CPSC announced that Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Kmart, Big Lots!, Target and J.C. Penney have all agreed to pull the product from their stores.

CPSC will be explaining this action further in a conference already scheduled in Washington for the first week in September. We are attending and should eventually have an update on the significance of this action.

For Immediate Release
February 6, 1998
Release # 98-063

CPSC Earns "Hammer" Award for Fast Track Product Recall Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff today received its fourth "Hammer" Award from Vice President Albert Gore's National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) for the Fast Track Product Recall Program. This award honors federal employees for significant improvements to customer service and for making the government work more efficiently.

"The Consumer Product Safety Commission has taken a common-sense approach to the way government operates," Vice President Gore said. "This new initiative created by front-line employees enhances product safety for American consumers."

Under the Fast Track Product Recall Program, a company suspecting a product could be hazardous can voluntarily report it to CPSC and propose a plan for recall. If the CPSC staff considers the firm's plan satisfactory and finds no other cause for concern in its review, it approves the plan and works with the firm to expedite the recall to begin within 20 days of the initial report to CPSC. This saves the government and companies time and money, and gets dangerous products out of the marketplace in a matter of weeks instead of months.

"By working cooperatively with industry for their mutual benefit, CPSC has improved its effectiveness, cut red tape and speeded up recalls," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "Getting hazardous products out of consumers' hands faster saves lives and prevents injuries."

By law, companies are required to report the discovery of a potential product defect to CPSC. Under its standard procedure, CPSC staff's first step is to determine whether there is a defect that might result in injury. If there is a defect, the staff then negotiates a voluntary recall or repair program with the company. This process can take 90 to 120 days. Under the Fast Track program, there is no preliminary determination of a defect and the product is recalled within 20 working days.

Since CPSC instituted the pilot program in August 1995, it has approved more than 228 expedited recalls affecting nearly 19 million potentially defective product units. The Commission voted March 24, 1997 to make the program permanent.

Companies have reacted positively to the new Fast Track program. "This is overall a very good program -- very smart," said Peter Winik, an attorney who has represented a number of manufacturers involved in the Fast Track program. "It is a more streamlined process for companies and the government."

"Getting the Hammer Award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff who are continually striving to improve our service to the American people," Brown said.

The $6 hammer mounted on a plaque, with a little red, white and blue ribbon and a handwritten note, is a symbolic answer to the $600 hammer of yesterday's government.

For Immediate Release
February 9, 1998
Release # 98-064

Century Products to Pay $225,000 Civil Penalty

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Century Products Company of Macedonia, Ohio, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $225,000 to settle allegations that it violated the Consumer Product Safety Act by failing to report in a timely manner defects with certain cribs and strollers.

Just before the Bush administration replacement of activist Commission chair Ann Brown with the more conservative Mary Sheila Gall (originally appointed by the elder Bush in 1991), CPSC sued the world's largest retailer.

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2001
Release # 01-161

Wal-Mart and Exercise Equipment Manufacturer Sued for Not Reporting Product Defects; CPSC, Justice Department Seek $9 Million in Fines

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that the CPSC and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc., of Bentonville, Ark., two of its subsidiaries, and Icon Health & Fitness Inc., of Logan, Utah, for failing to report serious safety hazards associated with home exercise equipment. Many of the incidents occurred at Wal-Mart stores while customers were trying out the equipment. The lawsuit seeks fines of up to $9 million from the companies. This is the first time that the government has sued a retailer in federal court for failing to report product-related injuries.

CPSC and DOJ are charging that the companies failed to report a dangerous defect with Weider and Weslo exercise gliders manufactured by Icon and distributed by Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries between 1996 and 1999, even after the companies had been notified of dozens of injuries caused by the equipment. Icon manufactured 75,000 of the gliders, many of which were distributed by the Wal-Mart companies nationwide. Under the Consumer Product Safety Act, manufacturers, distributors and retailers are required to report to CPSC products that have a defect that could create a substantial risk of injury to the public or that present an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. The Weider and Weslo exercise gliders had a defect that allowed the seat to collapse during use, causing the user to fall abruptly and suffer severe injuries.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, and Icon began to receive information about injuries in the summer of 1996. The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart, its subsidiaries, and Icon were aware of dozens of injuries, including fractured vertebrae and herniated discs, but did not report them to the CPSC. Some injuries resulted in partial disability, including a compression injury to a woman's spine that left her 50 percent permanently disabled. In April 1999, Icon recalled the gliders in cooperation with CPSC The full story was once on the CPSC web page, but they have changed the link.

We have more on penalties CPSC has exacted on our CPSC Jail Page.