Senators Propose Legislation To Strengthen Consumer Agency

Two US senators have introduced legislation in Congress designed to beef up the Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC), which has jurisdiction over the safety of a wide range of consumer
products including textiles and apparel.

Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Mark Pryor,
D-Arkansas, say the CPSC Reform Act of 2007 is designed to rebuild the consumer agency and enable
it to meet the challenges of today’s economy.

Under the Bush administration CPSC has been moribund as a result of budget cuts and failure
to name the number of commissioners needed to do its job. That all changed when the flap developed
over toy imports of Chinese toys that were found to have lead paint levels that are illegal in the
United States. Other toys also were found to present safety hazards. Although toy manufacturers
have made massive recalls and are in negotiations with their overseas suppliers, Congress is likely
to act soon to give the CPSC more authority and the staff necessary to address product safety
problems. While the CPSC in the past has had problems with some textile products, they are few and
far between today, but problems could exist with imports, and US manufacturers are keeping an eye
on that situation.

The CPSC reform act would authorize funding in 2007 to increase the staff to at least 500
employees by 2013. It authorizes funding levels for seven years starting at $80 million in 2009 and
increases funding at a rate of 10 percent per year through 2015. In 2008, an additional $20-million
would be authorized to upgrade CPSC’s laboratories.

The act also would:

• increase civil fines up to $250,000 per violation with a cap of $100 million;

• increase criminal penalties to five years in jail for those who knowingly and willingly
violate product safety laws;

• require independent, third-party safety certification on every children’s product that
enters the United States;

• restore the commission to five members instead of the present three in order to prevent
future absences of quorum;

• allow state attorneys general to bring civil action on behalf of their residents;

• provide whistleblower protection for manufacturers’ and importers’ employees to shed light
on problems along the supply chain;

• make it illegal for retailers to sell a recalled product; and

• streamline product safety rule-making processes to be timely and proactive.

September 18, 2007