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Updated March 29, 2023

CPSC Notification Requirements, Recalls and Recent Enforcement Actions: Desk Reference for Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act

Arnold & Porter Desk Reference

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC or the Commission) is a small federal agency with a big job: protecting consumers from unreasonable risks of injury associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. With an appropriation for fiscal year 2023 of US$152.5 million and about 550 employees — tiny by federal government standards — CPSC uses safety data submitted by companies pursuant to the notification requirements under Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) to help carry out the agency's mandate. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) dramatically increased the maximum penalties for noncompliance,3 and both CPSC and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) have used that authority to impose multi-million-dollar penalties against a number of companies for alleged late reporting under Section 15 and other violations.

Congress created CPSC as an independent commission, which means that it does not report to the President either directly or through any department or agency of the federal government. CPSC can have up to five Commissioners, one of whom serves as Chair, and only three of whom can be from the same political party. CPSC's Chair and Commissioners are appointed by the President for seven-year terms with the advice and consent of the Senate.

After years of open seats on the Commission, in 2021-22 President Biden nominated and the Senate confirmed three Democratic Commissioners: Alexander Hoehn-Saric (as Chair) through 2027, Richard Trumka Jr. through 2028, and Mary Boyle through 2025. These appointments brought the Commission to full strength and a 3-to-2 partisan makeup. However, Republican Dana Baiocco left her seat in October 2022 with two years remaining on her term, leaving Peter Feldman as the lone Republican. Notwithstanding the vacancy of the second Republican seat, the Commission has continued its trend of aggressive enforcement of the Section 15 reporting requirements.

This desk reference first explains the Section 15 notification requirements, including the broad scope of CPSC's jurisdiction, and then discusses routes to a product safety recall, reporting and recall trends, and penalties for late reporting.