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Practice Areas

Tighter Import Restrictions for Seasonal and Decorative Lighting Products

Monday, May 04, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a final rule that, effective June 3, will specify that seasonal and decorative lighting products that do not contain one or more of three readily observable characteristics (minimum wire size, sufficient strain relief or overcurrent protection) constitute a substantial product hazard under the Consumer Product Safety Act. The CPSC does not expect this rule to deny or restrict market access in any way, noting that (a) virtually all covered products are already estimated to conform to the applicable voluntary standard (UL 588), meaning no new restrictions on importations will occur, and (b) any noncomplying products will be subject to CPSC enforcement action just as they have in the past.

Scope. This rule defines “seasonal and decorative lighting products” as portable, plug-connected, temporary-use lighting products and accessories that have a nominal 120 volt input voltage rating. Lighting products within the scope of this rule are factory-assembled with push-in, midget- or miniature-screw base lampholders connected in series or with candelabra- or intermediate-screw base lampholders connected in parallel, directly across the 120 volt input. Such lighting products include lighted decorative outfits, such as stars, wreaths, candles without shades, light sculptures, blow-molded (plastic) figures and animated figures.

Lighting products outside the scope of this rule include battery-operated products, solar-powered products, products that operate from a transformer or low-voltage power supply, flexible lighting products incorporating non-replaceable series and series/parallel-connected lamps enclosed within a flexible polymeric tube or extrusion, and portable electric lamps used to illuminate seasonal decorations.

(Readers should note that the lists of products that are and are not covered by this rule have been revised from the proposed rule.)

Effects of the Rule. This final rule is not a consumer product safety rule and thus does not create a mandatory standard that triggers testing or certification requirements on importers or manufacturers. It does, however, have the following effects with respect to subject lighting products that do not contain one or more of the three readily observable characteristics.

- Such products are subject to the reporting requirements of section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

- Any manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer that fails to report such products to the CPSC will be subject to civil penalties and possibly criminal penalties as well.

- The CPSC may order the manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer to offer to repair or replace such products or to refund the purchase price to the consumer.

- Admission of such products into the U.S. will be refused.

- U.S. Customs and Border Protection may seize such products, which may be forfeited, and assess any authorized civil penalties.

Enforcement. The CPSC anticipates continuing its existing enforcement policy for covered products at ports of entry and retail outlets, at least in the near future. Currently, the CPSC identifies seasonal lighting products that lack certification marks, appear to have irregular or counterfeit certification marks, or have other characteristics that might suggest noncompliance with applicable standards. Once this rule takes effect, the CPSC will evaluate such products to assess whether they meet all three readily observable safety characteristics. If not, the CPSC generally anticipates requesting that CBP detain the product if offered for importation. Additionally, CPSC practice is to inform the manufacturer or importer of the defect. Depending on the facts and circumstances, other legally authorized measures may also be taken.

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