Congress enacted the Consumer Products Safety Act (CPSA) in 1972 to remedy inadequate protections available to consumers from unreasonable risks of injury associated with consumer products. The statutes adopted under the CPSA were intended to assist consumers in evaluating the comparative safety of consumer products, to develop uniform safety standards for consumer products, to minimize conflicting state and local regulations, and to promote investigation into the causes and prevention of product-related deaths, illnesses, and injuries.

In 2008, after a wave of imported toys and consumer goods were found to contain the toxin lead, Congress enacted the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (“CPSIA”)  in order to modernize the Consumer Products Safety Commission (“CPSC”) and establish more stringent consumer product safety standards and safety requirements, with a particular focus on regulating children’s products.

Manufacturers of products covered by the CPSA (i.e., products imported into the United States that are subject to a Consumer Product Safety Rule, standard or regulation enforced by the CPSC) must issue a certificate of compliance for each of those products.  The certificate of compliance must declare that the product complies with all of the rules, standards and regulations imposed by the CPSA and the CPSIA.  Such certificates must also identify the manufacturer issuing the certificate, and include the date and place of manufacture, the date and place the product was tested, each party’s name, and the contact information of the person responsible for maintaining records of the test results.

Private individuals may sue individuals who violate certain provisions of the CPSA. First, any person who sustains an injury by reason of any knowing (including willful) violation of a consumer product safety rule, or any other rule or order issued by the commission, may sue the alleged violator in any U.S. district court.  They may also recover damages and the costs of the suit, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and reasonable expert fees.

Second, any interested person has a private right of action to enforce a Consumer Product Safety Rule or Order.  In order to proceed, such interested persons must provide the alleged violating company with notice that its products are in violation of the CPSIA. The noticing party would be able to determine appropriate civil penalties and, if applicable, attorneys’ fees may be recovered. Although, to date, there have been few, if any, private enforcement actions brought under the CPSIA, given the current budgeting restrictions faced by such agencies, including the CPSC, private enforcement actions are likely to become more prevalent.