July 16, 2021

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) filed an administrative complaint against Amazon.com, on July 14 2021 to force it to recall certain consumer products

The CPSC does not actually have the ability to "force" a US company to undertake a "voluntary recall". The vast majority of CPSC recalls are basically undertaken voluntarily. The degree of how voluntary or involuntary they are often depends on the nature of the safety problem, how widespread it is and also on the size of the company. Again in the vast majority of cases, such as recently with Peloton, the company relents and agrees to conduct a "voluntary" recall under the control of CPSC. In some cases however the CPSC either has to back down and accept what remediation and notification that has been done, or like in this case with Amazon, it literally has to sue Amazon to "force" it to recall the products under CPSC guidelines with the CPSC calling the shots (as usual) on the specifics of how the notifications will be sent out, what they say, the remedies etc.  The suit itself is quite a good read (and educational) and details the position the CPSC is asserting on Amazon's role in the sales and returns process and why it should be forced to undertake the recall (not the overseas manufacturers which the CPSC has no control over). Its quite an eyeopener. This is nothing short of extraordinary for the CPSC to do and again it only does so in egregious situations where it is quite certain a judge will agree with its findings. 

Obviously we would never counsel any of our clients to take such a step unless there were good reasons not to conduct a recall, but of course if that was the case the CPSC would not likely be suing the company. We always recommend cooperating with the CPSC (but only through counsel) if you plan on conducting a recall for a host of related legal reasons. It will be interesting to watch this suit play out. No doubt the CPSC felt emboldened by a number of recent court decisions like this one in California holding Amazon legally responsible for the distribution of allegedly defective products.

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