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CPSC denies petition to require product registration cards.

On March 7, CPSC voted to deny a petition to require product registration cards for children's products. The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner Thomas Moore dissenting.

The petition had been filed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG). Petitioners argued that the poor rate of recall returns on some children's products regulated by CPSC were causing risks to consumers who had not heard about the original recall. Mandating companies to provide postage-paid registration cards with new products was seen as a method to obtain consumers' names and addresses in order to contact them in the event of a future recall. (4)

The staff briefing package recommended that the Commission defer a decision on the petition while it carries out its own recall effectiveness plan.

Instead, the Commission voted to deny.

Commissioner Gall said she voted to deny the petition for three basic reasons:

"First, a PRC (product registration card) would not materially improve the ability of the Commission and of manufacturers, distributors and retailers to recall defective products, and would certainly not be worth the costs that it would entail....

"Second, neither the plain meaning of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) nor the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) provides the Commission with the legal authority to require the maintenance of a PRC database as requested by the petitioners ...

"Third, any rule requiring a PRC for such a broad category of products would likely violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Specifically, there is no rational basis for singling out children's products as products requiring PRCs, since there is no evidence that children's products are any more dangerous than other products." (5)

CPSC Chairman Harold Stratton said he voted to deny the petition "after having considered several factors including the Commission's authority under the CPSA to promulgate such a rule, the broad and indefinite scope of the petition, the likely costs associated with product registration cards, the potential effectiveness of the proposed rule on recalls, and the need to consider product registration cards within the broader context of recall effectiveness." (6)

Stratton noted that the types of products covered by the petition have "significantly differing useful product lives."

"Some will last for years and others will be thrown away after their first use. Other products, such as cribs, may be passed from person to person, or given to a thrift store ...

"A one-size-fits-all rule as contemplated by the petition to cover such a broad scope of products is not practicable," Stratton said.

Stratton noted that CPSC has its own recall effectiveness research project, and that it will shortly convene a roundtable with CPSC staff, consumers, representatives of industry, and others to study the recall effectiveness problem. The agency is planning this forum on May 15, 2003.

The staff study on recall effectiveness will not be completed until the fall of 2004.

Commissioner Thomas Moore moved to grant the petition, but his motion was defeated. He then voted against the motion to deny the petition. Moore said that although he knows that CPSC staff will be conducting a forum and that their own research is ongoing, denying the petition could "send the wrong signal." (7)

Disappointed in CPSC's action, Barbara Rosenfeld, Vice Chairman of Safer America for Everyone (SAFE), a group founded by former CPSC Chairman Ann Brown, complained that CPSC is delaying taking needed action.

"CPSC doesn't need to study this issue further. It needs to act to save lives and prevent injury," she said.

Rosenfeld took CPSC's action as a cue to promote The Product Safety Recall and Effectiveness Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) last year. The legislation would mandate CPSC to adopt a product registration system or other methods to notify consumers directly about recalls. (8)

There is little argument that CPSC needs to find better ways to market its recalls. But the results of the March 7 CPSC vote indicate the present Commission does not see Product Registration Cards as the future answer to the problem.

(4) See CPSC Monitor, "Product Registration Card Proposal on CPSC Agenda," Vol. 8, Issue 1, January 2003.

(5) Summary Statement of the Honorable Mary Sheila Gall on Vote to Deny Petition for Rule Requiring Product Registration Cards, March 7, 2003.

(6) Statement of Chairman Hal Stratton Regarding Petition Number CP-01-1, a Petition Concerning Product Registration Cards, March 7, 2003.

(7) Statement of the Honorable Thomas H. Moore on Petition CP 01-1 Requesting that the Commission Issue a Rule Requiring Product Registration Cards with Every Product Intended for Children, March 7, 2003.

(8) Statement of SAFE Vice Chairman Barbara Rosenfeld in support of Product Safety Recall and Effectiveness Act, www.saferam.org, March 31, 2003.
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Title Annotation:Consumer Product Safety Commission
Publication:CPSC Monitor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:786
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