The growing volume of consumer products imported into the United States has strained the resources of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), challenging the agency to find new ways to ensure the safety of these products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) mandated that GAO assess the effectiveness of CPSC's authorities over imported products. GAO's objectives were to (1) determine what is known about CPSC's effectiveness in using these authorities, (2) compare CPSC's authorities with those of selected U.S. agencies and international entities, and (3) evaluate CPSC's plans to prevent the entry of unsafe consumer products. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed CPSC and other agencies' and entities' authorities, reviewed literature on consumer product safety, and compared CPSC's planning efforts with criteria for effective planning practices.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Consumer Product Safety Commission||To ensure that CPSC is able to exercise its full authority to prevent the entry of unsafe consumer products into the United States, the CPSC should ensure expeditious implementation of key provisions of CPSIA, including establishing the substantial product hazard list and implementing testing and certification requirements that are subject to stay of enforcement until February 2010, and complete its rulemaking as required under the act.|
|Consumer Product Safety Commission||To strengthen CPSC's ability to prevent the entry of unsafe products into the United States, the Chairman and commissioners of CPSC should take actions to improve the agency's ability to target shipments for further screening and review at U.S. ports of entry. (1) To ensure that it has appropriate data and procedures to prevent entry of unsafe products into the United States, the CPSC should update agreements with CBP to clarify each agency's roles and to resolve issues for obtaining access to advance shipment data; and (2) to improve its targeting decisions and build its risk-analysis capability, the CPSC should (a) work with CBP, as directed under CPSIA through the planned targeting center for health and safety issues, to develop the capacity to analyze advance shipment data; and (b) link data CPSC gathers from surveillance activities and from international education and outreach activities to further target incoming shipments.|
|Consumer Product Safety Commission||To provide better long-term planning for its import safety work and to account for new authorities granted in CPSIA, the CPSC should expeditiously update its agencywide Strategic Plan. In updating its Strategic Plan, the CPSC should consider the impact of its enhanced surveillance of the marketplace and at U.S. ports as discussed above and determine whether requisite analytical and laboratory staff are in place to support any increased activity that may occur at U.S. ports. Furthermore, the CPSC's Strategic Plan should include a comprehensive plan for the Office of International Programs and Intergovernmental Affairs to work with foreign governments in bilateral and multilateral environments to (1) educate foreign manufacturers about U.S. product safety standards and best practices, and (2) coordinate on development of effective international frameworks for consumer product safety.|