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House Appropriations Amendments Would Halt CPSC’s Voluntary Recalls Rule; Fund Testing Relief

The House of Representatives is currently considering H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act of 2015, which provides funding to many different parts of the federal government for the next fiscal year. This includes the CPSC, which would be funded $118 million under the House bill (the Senate appropriations bill provides for $123 million). Today, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced and the House passed an amendment  that would halt the CPSC’s ongoing work on finalizing the controversial voluntary recalls rule. The amendment states:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to finalize, implement, or enforce the proposed rule entitled “Voluntary Remedial Actions and Guidelines for Voluntary Recall Notices” (CPSC Docket No. CPSC-2013-0040).

Yesterday, Representative Blackburn introduced and the House passed another CPSC-related amendment that gives the agency an additional $1 million in funding intended for use to ease the burdens of third party testing.

In addition to these two amendments, the House Report contains language relating to several ongoing issues at the agency. The report language is as follows:

  • Voluntary Recall—As the agency with jurisdiction over tens of thousands of consumer products, the CPSC has the opportunity to leverage its resources and contacts within the manufacturing industry to help drive education campaigns related to proper use of consumer products. Through working with industry, voluntary recalls have been largely successful. This cooperative relationship with industry can help save lives and CPSC resources, which can then be devoted to product recalls and promulgating risk-based rules. The Committee is concerned about proposed changes to the voluntary recall system that would serve to negatively impact small businesses. The Committee opposes making unnecessary changes to a recall system that has worked well over the past 40 years, owing to a successful partnership between businesses and the Commission.
  • Public Disclosures of Information—Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) requires CPSC to take reasonable steps to ensure that any disclosure of information relating to a consumer product safety incident is accurate and fair. This congressional mandate protects the consumer by facilitating voluntary reporting by companies on potential product hazards and defects, while also ensuring a timely and thorough investigation is done to determine an appropriate corrective action plan. Proposed changes relating to voluntary reporting under section 6(b) of CPSA threaten to undermine a successful partnership based on openness and trust between industry and the Commission. The Committee cautions the Commission about making changes to a process that has succeeded in both protecting the consumer against harm and protecting industry against inaccurate disclosures of information before an investigation has been completed. The Committee expects the Commission to work with industry and stakeholders on ensuring the process for disclosing information on potential product hazards and defects is both timely and accurate.
  • Certifications of Compliance—The Committee is concerned about proposed changes to current certification requirements that would impose costly and burdensome changes to companies who already comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s (CPSIA) certification requirements. Imposing costly and redundant processes on stakeholders without the added benefit of increased product safety is counterproductive.
  • Import Safety—The Committee remains supportive of the Import Safety initiative which places CPSC investigators at key ports of entry in order to stop defective products from entering the United States. The CPSC’s coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is a cost effective and efficient use of CPSC resources and enforcement capabilities. The Committee believes resources in this area are being spent in a targeted and effective way and expects the CPSC to continue to devote resources to this program.
  • Pool and Spa Safety—The Committee commends the CPSC for continuing to provide resources for the national and grassroots ‘‘Pool Safety’’ campaign, a safety information and education program designed to reduce child drownings and near drowning injuries and maintain a zero fatality rate for drain entrapments. This multifaceted initiative includes consumer and industry education efforts, press events, partnerships, outreach, and advertising. In fiscal year 2014, the Committee provided $1,000,000 for the pool and spa safety grants program established by the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. The Committee expects CPSC to expeditiously administer grant funding to eligible entities.
  • Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel—The Committee understands concerns exist regarding the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) reporting process. The Committee expects CPSC to be open and transparent to the public in regards to its involvement in the CHAP process and ensure an appropriate peer review process is in place and adequate opportunities exist for the public to submit information and present its views before the CHAP finalizes reports submitted to CPSC.
  • Window Coverings—The Committee continues to support the cooperative efforts of CPSC and the window coverings industry to educate consumers on window covering safety. The Committee encourages continued cooperation between CPSC and industry on developing voluntary standards for its products through the current voluntary standards setting process.

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