Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approved a pilot program to test an electronic filing system that will require importers to submit data electronically for imported consumer products. The filing system will aid CPSC and other regulators in their surveillance of imported goods and allow them to identify noncompliant goods before distribution within the United States. CPSC commissioners approved the pilot program in a 4-1 vote.

Under the current system, imported goods are shipped with paper certificates of compliance inside their shipping containers. The paper certificates describe the product, identify its manufacturer, and list applicable rules and bans. According to CPSC chair Elliot Kaye, the paper certificates can cause confusion, and there are concerns that the certificates are not always provided at the time the goods enter the United States.

The electronic filing system will require importers to provide five data points: (1) identification of the finished product; (2) each safety rule under which the product has been certified; (3) the manufacturer and place of manufacture; (4) the parties who tested the product to certify its compliance with applicable regulations; and (5) an indication that a required certificate currently exists for the product. The electronically filed information will be available to CPSC for validation and risk assessment. Ultimately, the electronic data will guide CPSC’s determination of a product’s admissibility into the country.

The electronic filing program is part of CPSC’s larger “single window” approach for imported products. The “single window” framework aims to give companies a single point for submitting import-related information to the multiple agencies that have jurisdiction over goods entering the United States.

Importers interested in participating in the pilot program should contact CPSC for more information. The test program will begin no earlier than July 2016. CPSC will accept electronic requests to participate in the pilot program before the program starts, and will continue to take requests throughout the duration of the pilot. Participating in the pilot program may come with significant advantages. For example, pilot participants may experience a reduction in product safety tests on imported goods. In the event a products examination is required, shipments will be conditionally released to the importer’s premises for examination. In the event of testing, participants will receive “front of the line testing” from CPSC laboratories. And in the event that products must be destroyed, participants may be allowed to destroy products themselves in lieu of redelivering the product for destruction. Finally, the opportunity to cooperate and collaborate with CPSC in a limited context before full-scale implementation of the pilot program could prove advantageous in strengthening a company's relationship with CPSC.