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Partial government shutdown means CPSC is not announcing recalls

Published January 18, 2019

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — The partial federal government shutdown means that at least two active industry recalls have not yet been announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, although the companies responsible have issued recalls on their own and with government agencies in other countries.

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According to a CPSC memo, only 20 members of the CPSC's staff of 550 are working during the shutdown. The employees are working only on recalls of products that "create a substantial and immediate threat to the safety of human life," according to the memo.

The Commission's online recall page has not been updated since Dec. 20. Its Twitter account has not been updated since Dec. 26. The partial shutdown began on Dec. 22.

On Jan. 8, Specialized announced it was recalling thousands of bikes globally over concerns about possible breakage of a headset collar on road bikes with its Future Shock feature. The company has promoted the recall through its own channels and is working with government authorities in countries including Australia, where it is recalling about 4,500 bikes, and Canada, where it is recalling about 4,900 bikes

On its website, Specialized said it has notified the CPSC of the recall and was "working closely with them on a news release announcing the recall shortly." A Specialized employee familiar with the issue told BRAIN the delay in releasing a CPSC news release was due to the partial government shutdown.

SRAM announced a recall in Canada this week that, to date, has not been announced in the U.S. The company said it expected to announce the recall in the U.S. on Friday through its own channels. A CPSC recall notice will go out after the shutdown ends.

SRAM began working with the CPSC on the recall before the shutdown, said Brian Benzer, the company's vp of corporate development. "(The shutdown) hasn't been an inconvenience in any way," Benzer said. "There is a skeleton staff there and we asked a supervisor if we could proceed and he said we could. They've been very helpful and cooperative," he said.

Benzer said its recall announcement in the U.S. was not delayed because of the shutdown because the company had been planning on making the announcement about this time. He didn't expect any difficulties once an official CPSC announcement is made. 

California attorney Steven Hansen, who works with bike industry clients on recalls and other issues, said suppliers are still required to notify the CSPC about potential recalls, even if the Commission is operating with a reduced staff. 

"The official line at the CPSC is that the government shutdown is not an acceptable excuse for a company to delay notifying the CPSC under the existing legal time frames, which are very short," Hansen said. He said the industry should expect delays in response from the CPSC during the shutdown, especially because bike-savvy specialist compliance officers may be unavailable.

"The delay in the recall notices being published on the CPSC website is a huge problem," he said. "One would need to be very careful about publicly announcing a recall in the USA without first getting approval of the CPSC. That then makes it awkward when trying to announce globally with the CPSC lagging behind. The USA is usually one of the first countries to notify and to publicize. Health Canada usually follows CPSC actions and does not lead, but now they are leading," he said.

The shutdown may slow the import of some products. Although U.S. Customs and Border Protection is continuing most of its usual functions at the ports, the CPSC has furloughed its field agents and port inspectors, who monitor imports for unsafe products. Last year, the CPSC conducted more than 40,000 import inspections. The limited CPSC staff is still obligated to respond to imports of products that could "create a substantial and immediate threat to the safety of human life." 

CPSC representatives also regularly participate in standards organization meetings and discussions in the bike industry; that activity also has halted during the shutdown. 

The 2013 government shutdown happened during prime riding season in Utah and affected bike tourism there because managers of National Parks and other public lands were furloughed. The 2013 shutdown also delayed the launch of some electronic products, including a new LeMond smart trainer, because the FCC stopped granting wireless licenses. 

More information: Steven Hansen's law firm website is swhlaw.com. SRAM's recall page is sram.com/service#recall-notice. Specialized's is specialized.com/us/en/safety-notices

Specialized announced its recall on Twitter.

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