If you are a manufacturer, importer, distributor, and/or retailer of consumer products, you have a legal obligation to immediately report the following types of information to the CPSC: a defective product that could create a substantial risk of injury to consumers or a product that is otherwise unreasonably hazardous or dangerous for consumers; a product that fails to comply with an applicable consumer product safety rule or with any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban under the CPSA (pdf) or any other statute enforced by the CPSC; a product that a child (regardless of age) chokes on, such as a marble, small ball, balloon, or small part; and that, as a result of the incident, the child dies, suffers serious injury, ceases breathing for any length of time, or is treated by a medical professional; or certain types of lawsuits (applies to manufacturers and importers only, subject to the time periods detailed in Sec. 37 of the CPSA.) Failure to fully and immediately report this information may lead to substantial civil or criminal penalties.
The CPSC has compiled a Recall Handbook (pdf) for businesses that manufacture, import, distribute, retail, or otherwise sell consumer products. The handbook provides more detail about the exact legal requirements for businesses filing reports under sections 15(b) and 37 of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. § 2064(b) and § 2084, and Section 102 of the Child Safety Protection Act (pdf), Pub. L. 103-267.
In addition, the handbook provides information to assist businesses in learning how to recognize potentially hazardous consumer products as soon as possible. The handbook also assists firms that discover they have manufactured, imported, distributed, or retailed such products to develop and implement "corrective action plans" to address the hazards. The term "corrective action plan" (CAP) generally includes any type of remedial action taken by a firm. A CAP, for example, could provide for the return of a product to the manufacturer or retailer for a cash refund or a replacement product; for the repair of a product; and/or for public notice of the hazard. A CAP may include multiple measures that are necessary to protect consumers. Commission staff refers to corrective actions as "recalls" because the public and media recognize and respond more readily to that description.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does filing a report with the CPSC mean that the CPSC is definitely going to recall my product?
No. Reporting a product to the Commission under section 15 of the CPSA does not mean that the Commission automatically will conclude that the product creates a substantial product hazard or that corrective action is necessary. CPSC staff will evaluate the report and work with the reporting firm to determine if corrective action is appropriate. Many of the reports received require no corrective action because staff concludes that the reported product defect does not create a substantial product hazard.
2. How do I know if the CPSC is already aware of a possible health or safety risk with a product?
Due to disclosure requirements, the CPSC does not publish a list of reports that it has received from manufacturers, importers, distributors, or retailers and may be investigating. Recent consumer reports are available for search on SaferProducts.gov.
CPSC staff has provided the advice of "when in doubt, report." Companies are urged to contact others in the product supply chain to ask them whether they have already fully reported the potentially hazardous product to the CPSC. If other companies have already fully reported and a company has some written assurances to that effect, then a company does not necessarily have to report the product a second time. However, if a firm is still unsure whether the CPSC is already aware of important information, it must report that information to the CPSC.
3. If I suspect a product I manufacturered, imported, distributed, offered to sell, or sold might be a hazard, how much time do I have to report this to the CPSC?
A company must report to the Commission within 24 hours of obtaining reportable information. The Commission encourages companies to report potential substantial product hazards even while their own investigations are continuing. However, if a company is uncertain whether information is reportable, the firm may spend a reasonable time investigating the matter. That investigation should not exceed 10 working days, unless the firm can demonstrate that a longer time is reasonable under the circumstances. Absent such circumstances, the Commission will presume that, at the end of 10 working days, the firm has received and considered all information that would have been available to it had it undertaken a reasonable, expeditious, and diligent investigation.
4. What if I receive information that reasonably suggests my product could create a safety or health hazard but no one has actually been injured or harmed?
You must immediately report the information about the product. The law does not require injury or harm to have occurred.
5. Does the Commission treat the information reported as confidential?
Yes. Under section 6(b)(5) of the CPSA (pdf), the Commission and its employees may not publicly disclose information reported under section 15, unless the Commission has filed a legal complaint alleging that a product presents a substantial product hazard, has entered into a legal settlement dealing with a product, has published a public health or safety finding, or the manufacturer consents to its disclosure. Also see 16 CFR 1015.18. Section 6(b)(5) of the CPSA (pdf) also applies to any information reported under Section 102 of the Child Safety Protection Act (pdf). See 16 CFR 1117.7. In addition to the protections of section 6(b)(5), additional information disclosure protections are provided under sections 6(a) and (b)(1) of the CPSA (pdf).
In addition, under section 6(e) of the CPSA (pdf), the Commission and its employees may not publicly disclose information reported under section 37 of the CPSA (pdf), except that such information may be furnished to the reporting manufacturer or Congress, under certain circumstances. By law, reporting under section 37 is not an admission of the existence of an unreasonable risk of injury, a defect, a substantial product hazard, an imminent hazard, or any other liability under any statute or common law. Information provided voluntarily that is in addition to information required to be reported under section 37, is governed by the confidentiality provisions of section 15 reports.
Regulations governing reports made to the CPSC:
Recent Civil Penalties Assessed for Failure to Report to the CPSC.
This communication has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is based upon the facts and information presented. This communication does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice and has not been reviewed or approved by the Commission, and does not necessarily represent their views. Any views expressed in this communication may be changed or superseded by the Commission.