Consumer Product Safety
The Consumer Product Safety Commission faces a number of challenges regulating a wide range of consumer products.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is responsible for regulating the safety of thousands of consumer products, ranging from children’s toys to off-road recreational vehicles. However, it faces a number of challenges regulating this wide range of products.
- CPSC’s ability to respond to new and emerging product risks in a timely manner is limited by factors like its rulemaking process and its reliance on voluntary industry safety standards. For example, CPSC cannot legally compel a manufacturer to comply with a voluntary standard or take action against it for not complying.
- Certain legal restrictions may hamper CPSC's ability to stay informed about new product hazards to public health and safety, particularly those related to the growing volume of imported products. In particular, CPSC cannot have information-sharing agreements with foreign counterparts because it cannot allow foreign counterparts to disclose confidential business information.
- CPSC oversees consumer product safety along with other federal agencies, and it is not always clear who is responsible for overseeing which products. Sometimes, jurisdiction for a product can change depending on where or how it is used. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates hand-held infant carriers when used as car seats, but CPSC regulates the carriers when used outside of motor vehicles.
Regulation of Infant Car Seats/Hand-held Infant Carriers by Two Different Federal Agencies
GAO-15-52: Published: Nov 19, 2014. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 2014.
GAO identified eight agencies that have direct oversight responsibilities for consumer product safety: the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Department of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration,...
GAO-15-17: Published: Oct 14, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 2014.
According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) officials, industry representatives, consumer groups, and subject-matter experts GAO interviewed, the timeliness of CPSC's responses may be affected by several factors, including (1) compliance actions that can involve litigation, (2) reliance on voluntary standards, (3) rulemaking procedures, (4) restrictions on sharing information with the p...
GAO-13-306: Published: Mar 11, 2013. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2013.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has used various approaches to inform the public about SaferProducts.gov, including using social media, public service announcements, and printed materials, and promoting the site during speeches and events. CPSC's efforts to inform the public about SaferProducts.gov have been part of a larger effort to raise awareness about the agency as a whole. Whil...
GAO-13-150: Published: Dec 20, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 20, 2012.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has broad authority to identify, assess, and address product risks, but faces some challenges in identifying and responding to new risks in a timely manner. CPSC uses various means to stay informed about risks that may be associated with new or existing products. These methods include (1) market surveillance activities for imported products, retail sto...
GAO-12-582: Published: May 21, 2012. Publicly Released: May 21, 2012.
Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforces compliance with mandatory federal safety standards, it is also required by law to rely on voluntary safety standards when it determines that the standard adequately addresses the product hazard and is likely to have substantial compliance. Voluntary standardsdeveloped by industry, consumer, and government participants through a...
GAO-12-30: Published: Oct 12, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 2011.
In the wake of increased product recalls in 2007-2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Among other things, CPSIA requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to establish a database on the safety of consumer products that is publicly available, searchable, and accessible through the CPSC Web site. In response, CPSC launched SaferProducts.gov i...