Product Liability

U.S. signs consumer product safety agreements with Australia and Hong Kong

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced this week the signing of “memorandums of understanding” (MOUs) between the U.S. agency and equivalent agencies in Australia and Hong Kong. The broad purpose of the agreements is to improve product safety between the U.S. and its trading partners.

In an increasingly global economy, one of the biggest challenges the CPSC faces is ensuring that products made in other countries meet American standards for product safety. As we have seen so often in the past, cheaply made products like toys and jewelry made in countries such as China often contain unsafe levels of lead, cadmium, or other toxic metals.

Other consumer products, such as drywall, children’s furniture, and all-terrain vehicles, may contain other dangerous substances or design flaws that make them inherently unsafe. Defective products entering the U.S. stream of commerce from other countries can and usually do harm consumers and lead to costly recalls.

The CPSC signed the agreements with Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which are charged with protecting consumers in their respective countries. The MOUs put formal structures into place for sharing information about recalled products, consumer product regulations, product testing requirements, and product safety campaigns. The MOUs also facilitate relations between the regulators in developing more compatible product safety standards.

CPSC director Inez Tenenbaum signed the MOUs on visits to Hong Kong and Sydney, where she and other commissioners discussed the need for global improvements in consumer product safety. Provisions were made for further cooperation, revision, expiration, and renewal of the agreements.

The CPSC has jurisdiction over thousands of consumer products and actively works to identify those that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard.