Consumer Protection Laws and Agencies
Every year, consumers are injured while using a defective product or consuming dangerous food. A product can be defective in several ways:
- There could be a defect caused by a problem in manufacturing.
- The product could have been poorly designed.
- A defect in packaging could make a product unsafe (for example, food packaging).
- Some products are safe for one purpose, but not for another. They require a warning. Failure to warn is a defect.
- Some products require instructions in order for the consumer to use them properly and safely. Failure to provide adequate instruction is a defect.
Consumer Safety Legislation
The Consumer Products Safety Act is the most significant consumer protection statute. It makes selling, distributing, or importing products that don't comply with safety regulations illegal. Violating safety regulations can result in civil and criminal penalties for the company.
In addition to the federal consumer safety laws, there are state consumer protection laws. See The National Consumer Law Center for a compilation of these laws.
There are also federal statutes for specific industries and product categories. These industries include:
- The automotive industry, tires and seat belts (under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
- Medical devices, drugs, and food (Food and Drug Administration)
- Cosmetics (Food and Drug Administration)
- Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Industrial products and farm products (Occupational Safety & Health Administration)
- Chemicals (U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)
- Aircraft (Federal Aviation Administration)
- Boats (U.S. Coast Guard)
Consumer Product Safety Agencies
The following is a listing of federal consumer protection agencies with which a personal injury attorney might consult. This list includes the consumer protection laws and regulations they issue and the services they provide. (See Legal Basis for Liability in Product Cases to learn how the law protects consumers from dangerous products.)
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission addresses “unreasonable risks" of injury from hazardous consumer products. It does this by developing uniform safety standards and conducting research. The Commission issues consumer product safety alerts and product recalls. The national Consumer Product Safety Line is 800-638-2772. You can also fill out a consumer complaint form to report an unsafe product.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates industry and construction. Its whistleblower statutes protect employees who blow the whistle on unsafe industry practices for:
- Consumer products
- Food safety
- Health care
- Public transportation
- The Environmental Protection Agency regulates many industry sectors. These include agriculture, construction, transportation, natural resources, and energy. Its environmental laws cover chemicals, cosmetics, food, and toxic substances. (See Key Federal Environmental Laws to learn more.)
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration establishes standards for food, drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics. It has information on drug ingredients and food and drug manufacturing methods. It issues consumer alerts and food recalls for unsafe food products. (See Why Drugs Get Pulled from the Market to learn more.)
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues vehicle safety standards. It provides information on crash test ratings and investigates motor vehicle defects. The NHTSA also requires that owners be notified when there is a product defect and it announces recalls. Consumers can report vehicle safety problems to this agency. The NHTSA can enact civil penalties for violations of the Vehicle Safety Act. (See Car Safety Recalls to learn more.)
- The Federal Highway Administration conducts roadway safety research and audits.
- The Transportation Research Board will furnish abstracts of highway engineering articles. It conducts research on the deployment of automated vehicles. It regulates issues of marine transportation.
- The United States Coast Guard investigates consumer complaints of defective boats. It sets safety standards and makes factory inspections. The Coast Guard notifies boat owners when defects are found.
State Safety Investigation Resources
- State Offices of Consumer Protection: Every state has a consumer protection division. Find the office for your state. These departments also look at unfair business practices and deceptive business practices. When you visit a state page, you will find links to state consumer protection offices and city consumer protection offices.
- State police and highway patrol may provide information on state regulations of motor vehicles. They may have records of locations where accidents occur.
- Most state fire marshals issue fire safety standards and basic building design and construction standards.
- State Commissioners of Public Safety maintain traffic accident data. This can be used to identify defectively designed roadways.
Learn More About Consumer Protection Laws From an Attorney
Understanding how consumer protection laws ensure product safety is an important way to enforce those laws. If you or a loved one was injured by a defective product, contact an experienced consumer protection attorney today.
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Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.