Retailers: Product Safety and Your Responsibilites

If you are a retailer of consumer goods, especially children’s products, you may be wondering about your responsibilities under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008.

 

The CPSIA, a sweeping new law, authorized a variety of new regulations and testing requirements for children’s products and some non-children’s products.

 

From the perspective of a retailer, there are a few key facts that you need to know to ensure that you are complying with federal consumer product safety laws and are selling safe and compliant products to your customers.

 

Documentation

 

Your suppliers – manufacturers and importers – are obligated by law to provide you with documentation, discussed below, that ensures that the products you are selling comply with all applicable federal consumer product safety laws. Be sure that you obtain and review a copy of your product’s Children’s Product Certificate or General Certificate of Conformity.

 

Children's Product Certificate (CPC)

 

1.  Manufacturers and importers of children’s products must issue a Children’s Product Certificate in which they certify that their children’s product complies with all applicable federal children’s product safety rules.

  

2.  The CPC must be furnished to the distributor or retailer. (The CPC need not be on paper and may be furnished by making it available on a dedicated Web page.) See frequently asked questions (FAQs) for more information on CPCs.

 

 3.  A retailer is not required to view or maintain records of each CPC, but it may be advisable for a retailer to do so.

 

General Conformity Certificate (GCC)

 

1.  Manufacturers and importers of certain non-children’s products must issue a General Certificate of Conformity in which they certify that their consumer product complies with all applicable federal consumer product safety rules.

 

Note: Unlike children’s products, only certain non-children’s products have mandatory consumer product safety rules with which they must be in compliance. See the list.

 

2.  The GCC must be furnished to the distributor or retailer. (The GCC need not be on paper and may be furnished by making it available on a dedicated Web page.)

  

3.  A retailer is not required to view or maintain records of each GCC, but it may be advisable for a retailer to do so.

 

Your Responsibility: Duty to Report Unsafe, Hazardous, and Non-Compliant Products

 

Companies, including retailers, have a legal obligation to report a consumer product to the CPSC when they obtain information indicating that a product may create a substantial risk of injury to consumers, may be unreasonably hazardous or dangerous for consumers, may have been involved in a choking or “near miss” incident, or does not comply with rules, regulations, standards, or bans under the statutes enforced by the CPSC. Learn more about the duty to report to the CPSC.

 

A manufacturer may be in the best position to have this type of information. However, a retailer with information that indicates a product may be a health or safety risk, as described above, is legally obligated to report that information immediately to the CPSC, unless they have actual knowledge that the CPSC has already been fully informed of the information.

 

Retailers may wish to contact the manufacturer, importer, distributor, private labeler, or others in a product’s supply chain to secure written assurances that they have fully reported a particular product to the CPSC. To protect yourself, a retailer may wish to provide a copy of the written assurances to the CPSC or they may wish to submit their own timely report to the CPSC.

 

Failure to report this type of information immediately and in full detail could lead to the imposition of substantial civil or criminal penalties.

 

More information is available, describing the duty to report products to the CPSC in greater detail.

 

Other Helpful Information

 

Tracking Labels

 

All children’s products are required to have certain identifying information permanently affixed to both the product and its packaging, if practicable. This information is usually referred to as a “tracking label,” although there is no requirement that a manufacturer or importer create a new label if the required information is already permanently affixed to the product.

 

A tracking label must contain certain basic information, including:

1.  the name of the manufacturer or private labeler;

2.  the location and date of production of the product; and

3.  detailed information on the manufacturing process, such as a batch or run number, or other identifying characteristics.

 

There is no required format for this information. As long as all of the required information described above is permanently affixed to the product and its packaging, if practicable, then the product is compliant.

 

It is the responsibility of the manufacturer or importer of the children’s product to comply with this requirement. You can learn more about this requirement.

 

Product Registration Cards

 

In order to improve recall effectiveness, Congress has required that manufacturers of durable infant or toddler products:

 

1.  Provide consumers with a postage-paid product registration card with each product;

 

2.  Maintain a record of the names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and other contact information of consumers who register their products; and

 

3.  Permanently place the manufacturer’s name and contact information, model name and number, and the date of manufacture on each durable infant or toddler product.

 

As a retailer, you may notice these product registration cards and permanent markings when you display your product. There are very specific requirements about the format and layout of the product registration cards.

 

The product registration cards must be attached to the surface of each durable infant or toddler product so that, as a practical matter, the consumer must notice and handle the form after purchasing the product. As a retailer, you should not remove the product registration cards because you must ensure that the product is sold with the product registration cards still attached.  Learn more about this requirement. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Are CPCs and GCCs on file with the CPSC?

 

No. Manufacturers and importers are required to furnish them to their distributors and retailers and, upon request, to the CPSC.

 

 

Am I required to keep a copy of CPCs and GCCs?

 

No. A retailer is not required to view or maintain records of each CPC, but it may be advisable for a retailer to do so.

  

How do I know if the CPSC is already aware of a possible health or safety risk with a product?

 

Retailers often may not be able to determine whether the CPSC is already aware of a possible health or safety risk with a product. The CPSC does not publish a list of reports that it has received and may be investigating. Consumer reports are available for search at: www.SaferProducts.gov

 

Retailers may wish to contact the manufacturer or importer of the product to secure written assurances that they have fully reported a particular product to the CPSC. If a retailer has received these written assurances, then a retailer does not have to report the product a second time. However, if a retailer or other firm is still unsure whether the CPSC is already aware of important information, it should promptly report the information to the CPSC. CPSC staff has consistently provided the advice of “when in doubt, report.”

 

A small manufacturer from whom I purchase goods is claiming that they are exempt from providing me with a CPC or a GCC. Is that correct?

 

Not necessarily. Certain small batch manufacturers who have registered with the CPSC may not have to complete third party testing for their products, but they still must certify that their products are in compliance with the applicable consumer product safety rules. Learn more (There also are certain very limited circumstances in which products may have exemptions from certain chemical testing. Learn more).

 

 Can the CPSC enter and inspect my retail store?

 

Yes. CPSC staff is authorized to enter, during normal business hours, any establishment where consumer goods are held in connection with distribution in commerce. Upon presentation of appropriate credentials, CPSC staff may also inspect books, records, and papers to determine whether a store is complying with CPSC regulations. Refusal to permit entry or inspection by CPSC staff is a violation of federal law.

 


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.