As you may know, federal agencies are autonomous which sometimes results in conflicting missions between agencies. One such federal agency currently at odds with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is the General Accountability Office (GAO). Simplistically described, the GAO is charged with oversight to ensure that regulations and laws are not so onerous that laws cannot be obeyed. Introduction thus dispensed with, the GAO is requesting answers to very specific questions. Please don’t respond with ire and outrage at the CPSIA law. Rather, answering these questions -targeted at importers, sorry- to the best of your ability is the most legitimate way to make a case against CPSIA. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
Questions Regarding CPSC Authorities to Prevent Entry of Unsafe Consumer Products
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 contained a mandate for GAO to study the effectiveness of CPSC’s authorities with respect to preventing the entry of unsafe products into the customs territory of the United States. The mandate also requires us to review and provide recommendations with respect to plans to prevent the entry of unsafe products. Finally, the mandate requires us to make legislative recommendations, at a minimum, related to CPSC’s inspection of foreign manufacturing plants and a requirement for foreign manufacturers to consent to U.S. jurisdiction with respect to CPSC’s enforcement actions.
1. Prior to the CPSIA, what activities did CPSC undertake to enforce its authorities regarding imported products? In your view, what were the gaps in the consumer product safety law regarding imported products that were meant to be filled by the CPSIA?
2. In your view, what principles or criteria could be used to judge the effectiveness of CPSC’s enforcement of its authorities regarding imported products? Are you aware of an appropriate and authoritative source of data to help us understand CPSC’s past and current performance, particularly with respect to imported products?
3. To what extent are CPSC’s efforts inhibited by resource issues? What other issues limit the effectiveness of CPSC’s enforcement activities with respect to imported products?
4. Based on your knowledge, what are the differences or similarities between CPSC and other federal agencies (FDA, USDA, and NHTSA) and other countries (EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, and China) concerning their authorities to prevent the entry of unsafe consumer products?
5. An issue of general concern for consumer product safety is the “switcheroo” problem, whereby the product subject to testing and the product actually sold are quite different. How significant is this issue and, based on your knowledge, what is industry doing to resolve it? What, in your view, is the appropriate role for CPSC in addressing this issue?
6. CPSC has cooperative agreements with 15 countries. Based on your knowledge, to what extent have the agreements been effective in preventing the entry of unsafe consumer products into the U.S.?
7. What in your view are appropriate criteria to judge the effectiveness of CPSC’s training and outreach efforts with foreign government officials and manufacturers?
Please forward your responses to:
Meghana Acharya, Senior Analyst
Financial Markets and Community Investment Team
U.S. Government Accountability Office
301 Howard Street, Suite 1200
San Francisco, CA 94105-2252