A reflection on 2017 reveals several highlights showing that the CPSC is in a transition phase.
The CPSC’s composition has changed and will continue to do so. At the beginning of 2017, the agency was led by three Democrats and two Republicans. In October, Republican Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic resigned his seat to return to the private sector. Thus, the CPSC now has four commissioners: three Democrats and one Republican. But the Democrats’ grip on the agency will soon slip. Indeed, after the election of President Trump, Republican Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle became the CPSC chair. Further, President Trump has nominated a private-sector lawyer named Dana Baiocco to replace Commissioner Marietta Robinson, a Democrat whose term has expired. Further, an additional Republican nominee is expected to fill Mohorovic’s resignation. Thus, 2018 will likely see a Republican majority leading the CSPC for the first time in over a decade.
Civil penalties in 2017 totaled $21.35M—the third highest year in the agency’s history behind 2016 ($37.3M) and 2015 ($23.4M). But 2017 marked the first time in five years that the total amount of civil penalties decreased from the prior year. And Republican Commissioner Buerkle has been an outspoken critic over these civil penalty amounts. It remains to be seen whether a Republican majority leading the CPSC in 2018 will result in a coordinated shift away from these massive civil penalties.
Recalls also revealed a few themes in 2017. First, lithium ion batteries and their proclivity to overheat facilitated recalls of laptops, hoverboards and cell phones this year. Second, furniture tip-overs posed a risk to the lives of children and resulted in recalls of dressers, chests of drawers, benches and tables. Third, outdoor recreational vehicles—such as ATVs, ROVs and snowmobiles—have been recalled nearly every month of 2017. Moreover, one manufacturer paid a $5.2M civil penalty for their failure to report defects in ROVs. It is clear that the CPSC has been focused on the dangers posed by outdoor recreational vehicles this year.
Total Recalls: 30
Hazards: Fire/Burn/Shock (7); Violation of Federal Standard (6); Injury (5); Fall (4); Crash (3); Laceration (2); Failure to Discharge (1); Impact (1); Choke (1)