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Tighter Import Restrictions Proposed for Seasonal and Decorative Lighting Products

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is proposing a rule to 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 states that these three characteristics are addressed by a voluntary standard (UL 588), that conformance to UL 588 has been effective in reducing the risk of injury from shock and fire associated with these characteristics, and that more than 90 percent of seasonal and decorative lighting products sold in the U.S. comply with UL 588. Comments on this proposal are due no later than Dec. 30.

The CPSC proposes to define “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 incandescent or LED light sets, pre-lit artificial trees, wreaths, menoras, lawn figures, light sculptures and other decorative outfits and accessories incorporating light sets (e.g., blow-molded (plastic) figures and animated figures).

Lighting products outside the scope of this rule include battery-operated products, products that operate from a transformer or low-voltage power supply, flexible tube lighting strings of lights intended for illumination, portable electric lamps used to illuminate seasonal decorations, and landscape lights or other permanent lighting devices (assembled or unassembled).

The CPSC notes that if this rule is finalized it would not be a consumer product safety rule and thus would not create a mandatory standard that triggers testing or certification requirements. A final rule would, 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 would be 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 would be subject to civil penalties and possibly criminal penalties as well.

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

- Such products would be refused admission into the U.S.

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

The CPSC notes that importers, distributors and retailers that market only UL 588-conforming products would not be affected by this rule.

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