What Is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)?

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a U.S. government agency that protects the American public from products that may present safety hazards. This independent regulatory body focuses on consumer items that pose an unreasonable risk of fire, chemical exposure, electrical malfunction, or mechanical failure. Products that expose children to danger and injury are a particularly high priority for the CSPC.

In addition to investigating complaints from consumers concerning unsafe products, this group also issues recalls of products that may be defective or that violate mandatory standards.

Understanding the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

Created by the Consumer Product Safety Act in 1972, this group keeps a watchful eye over products such as power tools, cribs, toys, household chemicals, and cigarette lighters. The CPSC's charter includes the following tasks:

  • Working with industries to develop voluntary product standards
  • Issuing mandatory standards when required
  • Banning specific products where no standard would provide adequate public protection
  • Enforcing standards and issuing recalls or repair orders when necessary
  • Conducting independent research on potential hazards
  • Responding to consumer inquiries and complaints regarding specific products
  • Informing and educating consumers through the media and government channels

The CPSC maintains a consumer hotline through which individuals may report concerns about unsafe products; the number is (800) 638-2772.

Special Considerations

CPSC Recalls

One of the agency's main missions is the recall of unsafe products. Nearly all of these are voluntary recalls in which the manufacturer agrees to remove the product from store shelves and issue refunds to those who have already bought the merchandise.

In rare cases, the agency issues a mandatory recall when the manufacturer or distributor cannot or will not take decisive action to remedy faulty products. In 2018, recalls were issued for items such as bicycles, baby strollers, propane tanks, and electric chargers.

The public database, SaferProducts.gov, has recall information on thousands of products. An agency spokesman explains: "Through SaferProducts.gov, consumers, child service providers, health care professionals, government officials, and public safety entities can submit reports of harm (Reports) involving consumer products. Manufacturers (including importers) and private labelers identified in Reports will receive a copy of the Report and have the opportunity to comment on them. Completed Reports and manufacturer comments are published online at www.SaferProducts.gov for anyone to search."

The CPSC website contains the following information about the recalled products it lists:

  • The name of the product (as it's known to consumers)
  • The nature of the hazard
  • The remedy (such as a refund)
  • The recall date
  • The number of faulty units in circulation

The CPSC's Pool Safely is a national public education campaign that works with partners around the country who strive to reduce child drownings and entrapments in swimming pools and spas. The agency also maintains ATV Safety Info Center, which urges riders to keep all ATVs off paved public roads. Every year, there are approximately 650 deaths and 100,000 injuries involving ATVs, according to the agency spokesman.