When Chairman Hal Stratton stepped down from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in July 2006, he left the agency with just two commissioners. Without a three-member quorum, the agency is unable to sue a manufacturer or demand a recall, allowing dangerous products to remain on the market. The Consumer Product Safety Act stipulates that in the case of a vacancy, two members can constitute a quorum for six months, but the Bush administration declined to appoint a third member for much of 2007. This lack of authority became glaring in the case of the Kazuma Meerkat 50, an all-terrain vehicle designed for children.
Despite finding the Meerkat plagued by failing brakes, the CPSC could only issue a news release deeming the product “defective and dangerous.” In August 2007 Congress passed legislation to grant the two-member quorum another six months, but the agency still refrained from taking any serious action against the product. After the six-month time period expired, the seat remained vacant, and the agency was left, yet again, without a quorum to enforce safety standards or hold manufacturers accountable. A CPSC spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, but acting chairwoman Nancy Nord maintained that “the agency was able to make progress on a number of fronts” while without a quorum.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was signed into law on August 14, 2008. It allows for a temporary two-member quorum to carry out official business for one year and also expands the commission to five members instead of three to prevent a future lack of quorum. The third commissioner seat remains vacant.
Help support this work
Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.