The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, reports that it received fewer reports of injuries from companies in 2011. It is unclear if this is due to an actual drop in injuries or because more companies are failing to report injuries involving their products.
CBS News reports that 10 companies were fined more than $4 million in 2011, up substantially from the previous year’s two companies. Companies tend to be less than enthusiastic when voluntarily reporting injuries, but the reports are required by law.
Some companies may claim they did not report certain injuries because they believed that the consumer was improperly using their product, but according to the CPSC representative, that CBS News quoted, if there is any doubt the company should report the injuries.
“If they are putting the health and safety of consumers at risk and keeping that information from us, they can really be held liable,” said Scott Wolfson of the CPSC.
The CBS News story included links to a recent settlement between the CPSC and Black and Decker, related to a grass trimmer that caused numerous injuries to consumers. Black and Decker waited 10 months before reporting the problems with the trimmer to the CPSC. The company received a $960,000 fine.
The reporting is necessary, as it allows the CPSC to aggregate all the injury data and determine if there may be a product defect that is causing the injuries or if consumers misunderstand how to properly use a product. This allows the CPSC to decide if they need to issue a recall, or merely advise consumers on the proper use of a product.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission
The Commission was created in 1972 with the responsibility for “protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products.” It has the legal authority to regulate consumer products ranging from baby cribs and strollers to power saws, drywall and portable heaters.
The CPSC has a complex job, not only does their jurisdiction cover such disparate items as swimming pools, lead paint, arsenic leaching from treated lumber, electrical appliances, poisons and baby toys, but it also has to work with Customs officials on the inspection of the thousands of products imported into the United States’ stream of commerce.
Government regulation is under a great deal of criticism these days, and many companies are resistant, and sometimes hostile, to CPSC regulation. Some companies object to their products being identified as defective.
With the news of fewer injury reports being filed, and more fines being assessed, it appears some companies are attempting to avoid the negative publicity that comes with CSPC reporting obligations. Some companies eventually settle with the commission, and agree to a recall, but often still refuse to accept that the product was defective.
The Laws the CSPC Enforces
The CSPC was created as part of the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 and was modernized by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which improved some of the functioning of the commission.
The commission oversees and implements such diverse laws as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (PSSA), the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA), the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA), and the Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA).
The CSPC also creates its own regulations under the authority of Congress, creating specific safety standards for a range of consumer products.
The Reporting Trend and Fines
Neither the CBS News story nor the CSPC reports why the number of reported injuries has fallen and the number of fines increased. Nonetheless, the CSPC is working to raise awareness both of the work the Commission performs and the information available on the commission’s website.
In addition the commission’s main website, CSPC.gov, it also has the Saferproducts.gov site, which functions like a database for recalls and other reports of problems with consumer products.
What is unusual is that ordinary consumers may post problems or other issues with products on the site. This element was controversial, as many manufacturers did not want the CSPC to allow consumers to post potentially critical comments concerning their products.
Saferproducts.gov allows the manufacturer or related business to respond to customer reports. The site is useful for consumers, as they can search by product or manufacturer to see if other consumers have had similar problems with a product.
Injured by a Defective Product?
If you are injured by a defective product, whether because the product itself malfunctioned or the manufacturer failed to warn of dangers the product posed, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you seek to hold the product manufacturer liable for its actions or inactions by filing a lawsuit.
Through a lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation for injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering.