President Bush intends to sign into law legislation to increase the authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect the public from unsafe or substandard products. The CPSC has jurisdiction over more than 15,000 consumer products, from toys to refrigerators. The agency has been a focus of attention following a number of consumer product defects in 2007, from toys to pet food and pharmaceuticals. The landmark legislation was passed with near-unanimous Congressional consent and will increase the CPSC’s resources, authority and testing requirements.  

With respect to automobiles and most types of vehicle equipment, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) retains sole regulatory oversight. Items of equipment range from wheels and tires to oil filters, alternators, lights, grille guards and floor jacks. Nevertheless, several auto-related products remain under CPSC jurisdiction, such as jumper cables, seat covers and all-terrain vehicles. Both agencies require a manufacturer/importer/distributor/retailer to notify the appropriate agency if it concludes that there is a safety concern or defect. The CPSC and the NHTSA can also conduct a safety investigation on their own authority.

The new law will attempt to shift the government’s focus toward preventing hazardous products from reaching the marketplace, rather than retroactively responding to consumer complaints, injuries or deaths. Manufacturers will be required to have certain products tested by independent labs, some existing voluntary safety standards will become mandatory and fines and penalties will increase. The CPSC will also have authority to request identification of every manufacturer, importer, retailer or distributor within the supply chain, to the extent that such information is known or can be readily determined.

For additional information, contact Stuart Gosswein at