CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye was the keynote speaker for CPSC Day, and he did not disappoint. Chairman Kaye’s speech focused on providing the consumer products industry with a sense of his priorities for the coming years, which I have listed below.

Pressure to increase civil penalty amounts

Chairman Kaye’s most notable comment was that he is directing CPSC staff to push for significantly higher civil penalties in CPSC settlements for failure to report and other violations of the CPSA.  Chairman Kaye stated that the significant increase of the civil penalty maximum (for each violation) and cap (for a series of related violations) in CPSIA demonstrates Congress’ intent to punish, deter, and make sure civil penalties are not just the “cost of doing business.”

Since CPSIA’s enactment, civil penalty amounts have risen dramatically, with each successive settlement seeming to set a new record penalty. Taken in combination with Chairman Kaye’s remarks, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a civil penalty pushing through the $5 million mark soon.

Other key points

  • CPSC is concerned about the impact of “quality fade” on the safety of consumer products. The suggestion here is that importers and manufacturers need to incorporate quality fade considerations into their testing and certification approaches.
  • Chairman Kaye feels that he is still seeing too many small parts, lead, and phthalates violations in imported children’s products. We may see increased enforcement efforts for these types of violations.
  • Despite the import violations still occurring, CPSC’s statistics show that third party testing works, and Chairman Kaye is not planning on changing that approach despite the costs of testing.
  • But CPSC continues to seek out less burdensome test methods — so far, efforts have been unsuccessful.
  • Chairman Kaye is specifically concerned with hazards to children from coin cell batteries and window coverings. He noted advances in ongoing research in battery technology that will eliminate the risk of chemical burn from coin cell batteries swallowed by children. He also challenged the industry to eliminate corded window coverings altogether.
  • He emphasized the need for CPSC to develop a standard risk assessment methodology.
  • Although CPSC’s first crack at a certification rule requiring filing of compliance certificates at the time of entry is back at the drawing board (with an industry advisory panel expected soon), Chairman Kaye expects there will be a new single electronic filing system for port entry in the near future.
  • He echoed the comments from CPSC compliance yesterday that importers must have compliance certificates available to enter product into country, and certificate enforcement is a priority.