With summer in full swing, several U.S. senators have taken a public step to focus the CPSC’s efforts on dangers at the beach. Airborne umbrellas have become a serious hazard to beachgoers. In fact, CPSC data indicates that there have been over 31,000 beach umbrella-related injuries from 2008 to 2017, including the death of a vacationer after she was struck in the torso and killed by a rogue umbrella in Virginia Beach in 2016. In an unusual move, four senators recently issued a letter urging the CPSC to be more proactive about addressing the dangers posed by beach umbrellas. The senators requested more detailed information about umbrella-related injuries, asked about safety standards to prevent such injuries, and encouraged the creation of a public safety campaign to educate the public about the dangers of beach umbrellas.
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The balance of power at the CPSC will shift after Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle’s surprising announcement that she will leave the CPSC this fall. Buerkle has served as a CPSC Commissioner for six years and the Acting Chairman of the agency for almost half that time. President Trump has nominated Buerkle to be the permanent Chairman three times (2017, 2018, and 2019), but each time the Senate failed to vote on her nomination. Buerkle announced she is withdrawing her 2019 nomination to become the permanent Chairman and to serve an additional seven-year term. She will continue as Acting Chairman until September 30 and will complete the remainder of her term as Commissioner until October 27. She says that afterward, she will “pursue new opportunities that will allow me to continue my life’s work of advocacy and public service as well as spend more time with my six children and eighteen grandchildren.”
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Court rulings interpreting the Consumer Product Safety Act (CSPA) are rare because parties subject to the act typically resolve any issues directly with the CPSC through administrative actions or settlements. This month, the Seventh Circuit issued such a rare ruling, which makes it more difficult for manufacturers, distributors or retailers to argue the statute of limitations has run on failure-to-report claims.
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The CPSC this month issued notices to multiple consumer product companies explaining that the CPSC “recently discovered that nonpublic manufacturer information identifying your company by name along with product model name and/or model number was released in error to the public without following the procedures of 15 U.S.C. § 2055,” which provides procedures for and restrictions on the Commission’s public disclosure of manufacturer and product-specific information. The notice offers few details about the unauthorized disclosure’s nature or scope, raising questions about whether the released data comes from inspections, product safety investigations, recalls, consumer safety complaints or other possibly confidential or commercially sensitive information. This kind of disclosure may have a chilling effect going forward on the candor encouraged between the CPSC and regulated companies by Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act. 
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The U.S. Department of Justice announced major news in the world of consumer products this month. A federal grand jury recently indicted two corporate executives for their roles in an alleged scheme involving residential dehumidifiers. The executives were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the CPSC, and failure to furnish timely information under the Consumer Product Safety Act. This month also confirmed the CPSC’s continued focus on off-road vehicles.
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The FTC has announced that it will host a workshop on July 16, 2019, called Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions, aimed at examining manufacturer restrictions on consumer and third-party product repairs and the extent to which such restrictions implicate consumer protection. The announcement lists covered topics, including the interplay between repair restrictions and consumer protection laws like those in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act; the impact of repair restrictions on extended warranties and service agreements; the types of repair reductions in the United States and extent to which these restrictions are used; and consumers’ understanding about the existence and effects of repair restrictions, among other subjects.
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As reported on the Privacy & Information Security Law Blog on February 8, 2019, the European Commission has issued an EU-wide recall of the Safe-KID-One children’s smartwatch marketed by ENOX Group over concerns that the device leaves data such as location history, phone and serial numbers vulnerable to hacking and alteration.
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As reported on the Hunton Insurance Recovery Blog on January 18, 2019, policyholders facing any type of products liability scored a win in a recent decision from the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The court found that an insurance company must defend its insured against claims arising out of a recall while simultaneously funding the insured’s affirmative claims for recovery.
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