“Hello.  This is an automated call from Acme Manufacturing. Our records indicate that you purchased Product X between December 2019 and January 2020. We wanted to let you know that we are recalling Product X because of a potential fire risk. Please call us or visit our website for important information on how to participate in this recall.”

When companies recall products, they do so to protect consumers.  In fact, various federal laws, including the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), and National Highway and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA), encourage (and may require) recalls. And the agencies that enforce these statutes would likely approve of the hypothetical automated call above, because direct notification is the best way to motivate consumer responses to recalls.[1]

But automated calls to protect consumers can run into a problem: the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Continue Reading

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling from last summer may have changed the trajectory of a high-profile pending commercial speech case. In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Court modified the traditional commercial speech tests, perhaps placing a greater burden on the government when it seeks to regulate commercial speech. Becerra could influence the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision in Cigar Association of America v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration as to whether FDA-mandated cigar health warnings violate the First Amendment. If cigar regulations are found to violate the First Amendment, it could lead to a new wave of litigation.
Continue Reading

As 2020 dawns – and with it jokes about perfect vision – the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is feeling its way through a foggy vision of its future, but there are a few signs in view for CPSC-regulated companies.

The CPSC’s future, of course, hinges on what its leadership will look like, and that is an open question. The five-member CPSC is down one commissioner and without a permanent chairman. Democrat Bob Adler is the acting chair, but he may find his ability to drive official agency actions limited by a 2-2 party split: Adler is joined by fellow Democrat and former chair Elliot Kaye opposite Republicans Peter Feldman and Dana Baiocco.
Continue Reading

Entities regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should have greater confidence in sharing confidential business information with the agency following a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year that addressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s duty to disclose information in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Continue Reading

Have you eaten “America’s Favorite Pasta”[1] or received a “record-breaking” [2] footbag with your fast-food meal? While these products may seem to have little in common, they have a shared experience – each was the target of a false advertising claim. The statements raise the always-burning question for manufacturers: what is mere puffery and what constitutes false advertising?
Continue Reading

Imagine you try to flush a wipe that is branded flushable and discover it won’t flush. You are angry enough to sue the manufacturer for damages for “consumer fraud,” but should you also be able to force the manufacturer to change the label, even though your experience means you now know the “truth” about the product?
Continue Reading

Of the various debates and documents that can presage the interests and activities of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency’s operating plan is generally the most illustrative. The CPSC adopts a new plan around the beginning of each fiscal year, laying out that year’s objectives. Last Tuesday, the Commission received a briefing from agency staff on the FY20 Op Plan. The five commissioners will now review the draft and discuss potential changes, and they will likely hold another public meeting to vote any amendments and a final plan. Presumably, that vote will occur before Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle’s departure on October 27; once she’s gone, the body will be evenly split on party lines, and the odds of failing to reach consensus will go up.
Continue Reading

With uses ranging from transporting troops to increasing mobility for people with disabilities, off-road vehicles (ORVs) are being used by more people now than when the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) emerged in the 1960s. With increased demand comes increased discussion about how ORVs are regulated. And the answer is, it depends on where you live.
Continue Reading