A Refresher on Requirements for Manufacturers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission lifted of the stay of enforcement of certification requirements for non-children’s clothing textiles (wearing apparel), carpets and rugs, and vinyl plastic film.

The certification requirement can be found in section 14 of the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §2063 (CPSA). The certification requirement means:

Every manufacturer of a product which is subject to a consumer product safety rule under this chapter or similar rule, ban, standard, or regulation under any other Act enforced by the Commission and which is imported for consumption or warehousing or distributed in commerce (and the private labeler of such product if such product bears a private label) shall issue a certificate which—

  1. shall certify, based on a test of each product or upon a reasonable testing program, that such product complies with all rules, bans, standards, or regulations applicable to the product under this chapter or any other Act enforced by the Commission; and
  2. shall specify each such rule, ban, standard, or regulation applicable to the product.

1. What is Required?

If you manufacture, import, or private label any non-children’s clothing textiles, carpets and rugs, or vinyl plastic film, then you must (1) comply with the applicable standards for your product, (2) issue a general certificate of conformity (GCC) to accompany each product or shipment of products, and (3) furnish the GCC to your retailers and distributors.

2. What is a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC)?

A general certificate of conformity (GCC) is a document that certifies, based on a test of each product or a reasonable testing program that the product complies with all statutes, regulations, rules, bans, or standards under any law enforced by the Commission.

The GCC must list each of the statutes, regulations, rules, bans, or standards to which your company is certifying the product.

The GCC must include the manufacturer’s, importer’s, or private labeler’s name, mailing address, telephone number, contact information, the date and time of manufacture, and the date and place where the product was tested.

A GCC is required only for those products for which a statute, regulation, rule, ban, or standard is currently in place.

A GCC is required for wearing apparel because such products must comply with the requirements of the Flammable Fabric Act for clothing textiles under 16 CFR Part 1610.

A GCC is required for carpets and rugs which must comply with the standards under 16 CFR Parts 1630 and 1631.

Products that contain Vinyl Plastic Film require a GCC to comply with the standards under 16 CFR Part 1611.

The CPSC has published a model certificate here: http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/elecertfaq.pdf.

3. Who must issue a GCC?

The GCC must be issued by the importer for products manufactured overseas. The certificate must be issued by the U.S. manufacturer for products manufactured domestically. A certificate does not have to be filed with the CPSC, but it must be made available to the agency on request. The GCC must be prepared, but there is not a requirement for it to be “signed” by the issuer.

4. Is a GCC required for each shipment of my product?

The GCC must accompany the product. The CPSC has stated that an electronic certificate is “accompanying” a shipment if the certificate is identified by a unique identifier and can be immediately accessed via the internet or other means

5. Are there penalties for noncompliance?

The failure to furnish a GCC or to issue a false certificate is a violation of the law and could result in the imposition of civil penalties of up to $100,000 per violation, limited to a maximum of $15 million for any related series of violations, in addition to possible criminal penalties and asset forfeiture.

6. Can a product “guaranty” under the Flammable Fabrics Act be used as a GCC?

A fabric manufacturer may offer a product “guarantee” to its buyer that the fabric or textile complies with the Flammable Fabrics Act. This is a separate contractual matter. There are dangers lurking for U.S. manufacturers who rely on a product guarantee from their foreign supplier to confirm that the product complies with CPSC standards.

Where the product is imported into the U.S. the importer or the U.S. manufacturer is responsible for the issuance of a GCC, regardless of whether their respective supplier has offered them a guarantee.

Where you rely on a supplier’s guarantee that a product conforms to standards and has been tested under a reasonable program of testing, be sure to get the assurances in writing and maintain a copy in your records.