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From Products Liability Law Daily, April 4, 2019

CPSC collaborates with Canadian and Mexican consumer safety agencies on consensus recommendations

By Colleen Kave, J.D.

Product safety entities work to improve test methods for AC and USB chargers.

Yesterday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that its technical staff, in cooperation with Health Canada and Mexico’s Consumer Protection Federal Agency (PROFECO), have developed consensus recommendations to improve test methods for ensuring the safety of alternating current (AC) chargers and universal serial bus (USB) chargers. In joint tri-lateral letters to the standards development organizations in the three jurisdictions, the product safety agencies recommended new testing to assess the potential for fire and burn hazards caused by AC-powered chargers for small electronic devices. This collaboration represents the first example of a joint consumer product safety standard recommendation developed among multiple governments that are not members of a single administrative region (CPSC News Release, April 3, 2019).

The consensus recommendations stem from a multi-year project undertaken pursuant to the three agencies’ "Early Consultation Initiative." The Early Consultation Initiative sought to foster closer alignment of consumer product safety requirements through technical consultations by adopting consensus approaches to product hazards not yet being addressed by formal regulatory or standards work. In the joint letters to U.S.-based Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canada-based CSA group, and the Mexican government’s Directorate General of Standards (DGN), the agencies cited numerous incidents of injuries associated with AC and USB chargers and noted that incidents are more prevalent when a charger has not been evaluated and certified by a third-party testing facility. The trilateral team examined incident data and analyzed existing voluntary standards before proposing new testing procedures and requesting that standards developers add the tests to their current standards.

CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle viewed the consensus recommendations as a hopeful predictor of future cooperation, noting that a second round of the Early Consultation Initiative will take place in 2019. She stated, "This initiative has proven, at least on a small scale, that multiple jurisdictions can develop consensus recommendations to improve voluntary safety standards, if they consult early and compare data and experience."

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