Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Consumer Product Safety Commission Inspectors Now Responsible for Enforcement of Product Safety Laws at U.S. Ports of Entry

(Robin E. Harvey and Lourdes Perrino, Baker & Hostetler LLP)

Beginning mid-June, 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been posting inspectors at U.S. ports of entry for the purpose of enforcing product safety statutes and regulations. Before, screening always had been performed by Customs inspectors, who could call in CPSC inspectors when they thought it necessary or appropriate.

Containers are being seized at both air and sea ports, requiring importers and customs brokers to produce general conformity certificates for all products and product testing compliance certificates for products specifically identified under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) as requiring specialized testing for lead and phthalate content. So far, reports from the field indicate that seized goods are being released almost immediately after the proper certificates are produced. However, seized products not intended for use by children and not tested in conformity with CPSIA requirements are being detained by the CPSC as alleged non-conforming goods, until inspectors are satisfied that the seized goods should not be considered children’s products. Importers and customs brokers benefit from having on hand documentation to support the position that seized merchandise are not children’s products. […]

Impact of CPSC Agents at U.S. Ports

The addition of an agency charged with vigilance at U.S. ports and armed with new powers and penalties may cause concern for foreign exporters and for importers, especially in the handling of Chinese goods because goods from China triggered these developments. Certainly the general move to greater vigilance and penalties was intended to persuade exporters and importers alike to be more vigilant themselves. In addition, despite the increased budget and staffing, the CPSC remains shorthanded for its new tasks. It has been able to deploy only a small number of inspectors at each of the ten largest ports in the U.S.

Importers and exporters might deduce that consumer goods and food will be delayed at major ports. So far, that concern would be misplaced. Early reports from New York’s Kennedy International Airport and the port at Savannah GA indicate that release of detained goods generally has been prompt. The key is to have the proper documentation ready. Inspectors are proving cooperative and responsible. They are not bottling up goods unnecessarily, but they do represent a greater commitment in the United States to protect against unsafe products being imported from other countries. Read more here.