The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is scheduled to hold its annual Priorities Hearing in Bethesda, MD in less than a month. There’s a good chance the April 15th event will be postponed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
But even if the hearing takes place, there’s another factor that could make the hearing less meaningful: the Trump administration’s nomination of Dr. Nancy Beck to CPSC Chairperson. Given the rightful focus on the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts, chances are slim to none that Dr. Beck is confirmed in the near future.
Should the meeting go on, either in Bethesda or virtually, Schiff Hardin attorney Mike Gentine notes in a recent piece for National Law Journal that observers are likely to gain “a sense of both the public pressures the agency may be facing and how the CPSC (especially the four sitting commissioners) feel about the issues of the day.”
In other words, it’s the best chance we have for insight into what the agency is thinking about after last year’s inclined-sleeper and jogging-stroller recalls. More specifically, it offers the best chance of knowing whether the more aggressive approach suggested by Chairman Robert Adler during the annual conference of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO) holds any weight. From the activity we’re seeing so far, it may not.
Sure, we’ve seen a number of recalls of infant sleep products, including a rare consumer warning. We’ve also seen a number of furniture recalls due to tip-over risk – an issue that hasn’t and likely won’t go anywhere. But we still have consumer advocates and even former CPSC commissioner Marietta S. Robinson calling for Congress to step in and take action.
We’re living through some turbulent times. First and foremost, take care of yourselves, your loved ones, and your neighbors. Human health and well-being is and always will be the number one priority – whether it’s our nation’s coronavirus response or our efforts to protect consumers from products found to pose possible harm.
And when it comes to the regulation of consumer-product companies, we need to be prepared for Chairman Adler to make good on his promise of a more aggressive approach. In the meantime, remember that the challenges facing every industry are greater than they’ve ever been. Now more than ever, we need to help each other through the uncertainty.
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