By JP Ellison –
On February 24, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a civil lawsuit and partial settlement arising out of alleged violations of statutes enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the “CPSC”).
According to the press release, the complaint alleges that four California companies and 6 individuals have been charged with civil violations of the Consumer Product Safety Act and Federal Hazardous Substances Act based on the importation of various toys and children’s products alleged to contain unlawful levels of lead, phalates, and small parts inappropriate for small children.
A review of the complaint suggests CPSC has been more than patient with these defendants. According to the complaint, CPSC began collecting samples of imports and issuing Letters of Advice (“LOAs”) to these defendants 5 and ½ years ago. The complaint alleges that nearly every sample collected of these imported products was found by the CPSC to be violative, and resulted in LOAs to the defendant companies. CPSC LOAs are similar to Warning Letters issued by FDA, in that LOAs set forth the CPSC’s position regarding why a consumer product violates the laws enforced by the CPSC. A person or company receiving an LOA is given an opportunity to respond and present evidence and arguments as to why the product is not violative. The complaint alleges that the defendant companies received dozens of LOAs over the years. Nowhere does the complaint allege that the companies responded to any of them.
The government is seeking an injunction permanently barring these defendants from importing or otherwise introducing into commerce any violative products. The press release explains that some of the companies and individuals have agreed to be bound by a consent decree that will shortly be filed for court approval. The case continues as to other defendants.