Key Issues for National Consumer Protection Week

thumbnail businessIt’s National Consumer Protection Week, so we’re exploring how the federal government protects you, the consumer, from risky products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is tasked with protecting Americans from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under its jurisdiction. Our recently launched Key Issues page on consumer product safety explores CPSC’s work and challenges.

Risks of Imported Products

Many consumer products and their components are manufactured in other countries, and are not subject to the same regulations as those manufactured in the United States.

  • Nearly $2 billion worth of consumer products entered U.S. ports every day in 2013.
  • About 4 of 5 consumer product recalls involve imported products.

In 2012, CPSC began piloting a new approach to targeting and identifying unsafe consumer products at 15 major U.S. ports. The new approach evaluates products entering the United States on a predetermined set of rules (i.e., targeting specific hazardous products or importers) to identify imports with the highest risks to consumers.

What Challenges Does CPSC Face?

CPSC has faced significant public scrutiny about its ability to assess product risks, and take appropriate and timely action. We have examined challenges, like how quickly CPSC takes action once it identifies a safety hazard, and explored options to improve CPSC’s timeliness, such as preventive approaches to regulating consumer products.

However, CPSC is not the only agency tasked with ensuring consumer product safety. We found that many federal agencies play a role. To prevent potential safety hazards from going unregulated, we recommended that these agencies develop a more formal coordination mechanism. Learn more in our podcast:

 

How You Can Track and Help Improve Product Safety

If you have an experience with an unsafe product, you can help CPSC and your fellow consumers by submitting a report on the CPSC website: SaferProducts.gov. You can also search for recall notices and other product safety information, and see reports that other people have submitted.

As of October 2014, the site had more than 21,500 incident reports. We examined CPSC’s development of the site, and made several recommendations to assess and improve its usability. CSPC supported our recommendations.

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