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Civil Penalties Under the Consumer Product
Safety Act — Is a Change Coming?
By Timothy L. Mullin, Jr.
The US Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) enforces a
number of statutes designed to
ensure the safety of consumer products. See, e.g., Consumer Product
Safety Act (CPSA), 15 U.S.C. §§
2051-2089; Federal Hazardous
Substances Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 12-
61-1278; and Flammable Fabrics
Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1191-1204. For a
wide range of products not subject
to specific regulations adopted by
the CPSC, the agency oversees their
safety primarily through a system
requiring self-reporting of potential
safety issues, pursuant to Section 15
of the CPSA. See 15 U.S.C. § 2064.
While this system relies upon
self-reporting, CPSC does have
the authority to assess substantial
penalties for failing to report timely
— or at all — as well as for other
violations of the statutes it enforces.
15 U.S.C. § 2069. The amount of a
penalty and the method by which
CPSC determines the amount have
long been of interest to those subject to CPSC regulations.
This article will provide a
description of the CPSA penalty
scheme. It will then describe the
factors CPSC is supposed to employ
in assessing a penalty. Finally, it will
discuss whether upcoming changes
to the makeup of the commission
will lead to changes in how penal-
ties are assessed or the amounts of
The CPSA was passed to “protect
the public against unreasonable
risks of injury associated with
consumer products.” 15 U.S.C. §
2051(b)( 1). The CPSA imposes civil
penalties for violations of its provisions. Id. § 2069(a). Other statutes
enforced by the CPSC have similar
penalty provisions. See, e.g., 15
U.S.C. § 1264(c) (Federal Hazardous
WE SPEAK FLUENT CLIENT™
Timothy L. Mullin, Jr. is a principal of Miles & Stockbridge. A product liability and product safety trial, appellate, and regulatory lawyer, he regularly
represents companies before the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. His representation includes all aspects of CPSC penalties, from responding
to information requests to litigation in federal court. Mullin has represented companies in numerous penalty investigations, and is co-counsel for the
defendant in United States v. Spectrum Brands, Inc., litigation commenced by the CPSC seeking a civil penalty.
Any opinions expressed and any legal positions
asserted in the article are those of the authors and
do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions
of Miles & Stockbridge P.C. or its other lawyers.
This article is for general information purposes
and is not intended to be and should not be taken
as legal advice on any particular matter.