A new bill introduced in Congress earlier this month could increase litigation risk for the retail industry by leaving companies unable to prevent the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from disclosing inaccurate or premature information about potential product hazards. The Safety Hazard and Recall Efficiency (SHARE) Information Act, introduced on January 9, 2020, by U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), would also increase the maximum civil penalty for violations of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) from $15 million to $50 million. Largely seen as a response to public criticism over the perceived delays in the CPSC’s disclosure of hazards associated with infant inclined sleepers over the last year, the SHARE Information Act would allow the CPSC to tell the public that a product may pose a safety issue before the hazard has been confirmed.
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Innovation and developments in technology bring both opportunities and challenges for retailers, and Hunton Andrews Kurth has a sophisticated understanding of these issues and how they affect retailers. On January 23, 2020, our cross-disciplinary retail team, composed of over 200 lawyers, released our annual Retail Industry Year in Review.
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The theme for this Recall Roundup is effectiveness of recalls. In October, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released an investigative report criticizing the CPSC’s data-handling breaches from the spring. This month, the Office of Oversight and Investigations Minority Staff from the same US Senate committee released a report criticizing the CPSC’s handling of three “high-profile failures to effectively recall dangerous products” last year.
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As reported on December 10, 2019 in Hunton’s environmental law blog, “The Nickel Report”, additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has already found commercial application in various industries and its use is on the rise. 3D printing converts 3D digital models created on a computer or with a scanner into physical objects, usually by successively adding material layer by layer. The process allows manufacturers to make complex designs, rapid prototypes and final products while offering the potential to limit process waste and reduce production costs.
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Last month, the CPSC and three affiliated retailers issued a joint warning to consumers after the retailers discovered they sold nearly 1,200 units of 19 previously recalled consumer products between 2014 and 2019. The range of products at issue varied, including infant sleepers, scarves, portable speakers, barstools, children’s cardigan sets, hoverboards, beer mugs, coffee presses and infant rattles. It remains to be seen whether any further CPSC action, such as a civil penalty or a requirement to implement stronger recall systems and protocols, will be taken with respect to these three retailers.
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With Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle’s earlier announcement that she will leave the CPSC this fall, this month the commissioners elected Commissioner Robert Adler as the new acting chairman. Adler has been affiliated with the CPSC for more than 40 years. He has served as a commissioner since 2009 and previously served as the acting chairman from December 2013 through July 2014.
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This month serves as a reminder to manufacturers, distributors, retailers and importers that consumer products carry strong liability risks when they pose risks of serious injury or death. Steps should be taken to reduce that liability, including the issuance of alerts and recalls to remove the products from the stream of commerce.
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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed the first penalty for violations of its new rule limiting formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products just over one year after the rule became effective. The $544,064 penalty assessed against construction product supplier Global Sourcing Solutions, a Division of Turner Logistics, LLC (Global Sourcing Solutions), comes as part of a consent agreement between EPA and the company, which will also be required to implement a corrective action plan.
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