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ATLA protests revisions to CPSC reporting rules.

Raising concerns that consumers might be endangered by changes to rules governing product-hazard reporting, ATLA has asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to withdraw proposed revisions to the rules.

The rifles advise manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of consumer products on how to comply with the commission's requirements for reporting product hazards. (See 71 Fed. Reg. 30350 (May 26, 2006).) The proposed revisions, if adopted, would increase the likelihood that product defects known to manufacturers, distributors, or retailers will not be disclosed to the CPSC and the public. In addition, consumers would have more difficulty bringing defective product suits because evidence to establish the need for a recall or to show corporate liability would be limited.

On June 26, ATLA filed comments in response to the proposed revisions, offering several arguments to support its request that the proposal be withdrawn:

The proposal does not satisfy the commission's goals of improving clarity and transparency. Rather than provide guidance and clarity to manufacturers, the proposal would give them more discretion on how to weigh certain subjective factors in deciding whether a product is defective. If the manufacturer decides the product is not defective, it does not need to report the problem to the CPSC. The result is likely to be less reporting of defects, as the proposal would make it easier for manufacturers to evade the hazard-reporting rules.

The proposal appears one-sided, benefiting manufacturers but not consumers. The changes were suggested by industries responsible for reporting defects and were proposed after the CPSC consulted with industries but not consumers. The proposal should be withdrawn until after the commission considers the views of all affected parties.

The proposal creates a safe harbor for manufacturers. The proposal provides that CPSC staff may consider a manufacturer's compliance with standards in determining whether the company must report a hazard and whether the commission should institute a product recall. However, a product could comply with a standard yet have a defect beyond the standard's scope. A manufacturer could then claim safe-harbor protection if it complied with the standard but did not report the hazard. The CPSC should not shield a manufacturer of a defective product from public scrutiny just because the manufacturer complied with an inadequate safety standard.

ATLA concluded that the CPSC has not articulated any compelling need for these changes, which will lead to reduced hazard reporting and possibly fewer or delayed recalls of defective products.
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Title Annotation:Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Consumer Product Safety Commission
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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