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CPSC Issues Policy On Imported Consumer Products

Release Date: October 09, 1975

A proposed policy was published in the Federal Register for public comment on August 7, 1974, and the Commission received written views from one import association, five importers, two public interest groups, five trade associations, one individual and two foreign governments. The introduction to the policy statement responds to specific issues raised in the comments, but, in general, only minor changes were necessary in the final version of the policy statement.

The Consumer Product Safety Act places the same responsibilities on importers as on domestic manufacturers to assure the safety of consumer products sold in the United States. The import policy notes that other Acts within CPSC authority, the Flammable Fabrics Act, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, also place "comparable" responsibilities on importers.

The preamble to the policy statement indicates that although there may not be a precise equivalency between importers and manufacturers ".... the importer is in a unique position in the chain of distribution. By influencing the foreign manufacturer and monitoring the safety of the products imported, the importer can indirectly control product design and production. Because the importer determines what foreign goods are brought into the United States, he or she must be the one to bear the primary responsibility of those products."

In responding to some of the comments, the Commission states it will not rely on its bonding authority or dock inspections alone to insure the entry of safe products. Rather, the Commission will use "motivational compliance" -- "civil and criminal penalties when violations are found, and by requiring repurchase, repair, refund or replacement of defective goods where appropriate" -- to encourage importers as well as manufacturers, distributors and retailers to assume responsibilities for the safety of their products.

The Federal Register notice states that inspections and testing of consumer products will occur at every point in the distribution chain and that the Commission can be expected to select samples for testing at ports of entry. The shipments sampled may not be required to be held pending test results, but in the event of product hazards or violations, importers will have to take necessary corrective action.

The Commission can request Customs to deny entry to goods which it has reason to believe are violative. Specific implementation procedures for sampling and testing will be formulated later.

The discussion further states that Commission requirements for labeling and certification of products that meet mandatory safety standards could contribute to the freer flow of goods through Customs and reduce the need for government testing. Importers are responsible for the certification they issue, and the Commission encourages validation tests by importers and foreign manufacturers.

Highlights of the Commission's policy on imports include:

-All imported products under CPSC jurisdiction shall, to the maximum extent possible, be subject to uniform procedures, and the Commission recognizes the need to establish and implement procedures that minimize delay and expense involved in inspecting cargo at ports of entry.

-Appropriate enforcement actions will be directed toward responsible officials of any import organization and will not be restricted to action solely against the product.

-Existing procedures inherited from predecessor agencies will be reviewed and revised, if necessary, to be consistent with the authority and philosophy of the Commission.

-The Commission will consider exceptions or changes in the policy and implementing procedures if they appear to be creating barriers to free trade or unduly burdening the free flow of goods, so long as the safety of the American public is not affected.

-The Commission encourages the participation and comments of the import community, including importers and foreign manufacturers, on subjects affecting them.

Copies of the import policy are available from the Product Safety Information Center, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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