U.S. Code of Federal Regulations

Regulations most recently checked for updates: Jul 17, 2024

§ 1115.4 - Defect.

Section 15(b)(2) of the CPSA requires every manufacturer (including an importer), distributor, and retailer of a consumer product who obtains information which reasonably supports the conclusion that the product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard to inform the Commission of such defect. Thus, whether the information available reasonably suggests a defect is the first determination which a subject firm must make in deciding whether it has obtained information which must be reported to the Commission. In determining whether it has obtained information which reasonably supports the conclusion that its consumer product contains a defect, a subject firm may be guided by the criteria the Commission and staff use in determining whether a defect exists. At a minimum, defect includes the dictionary or commonly accepted meaning of the word. Thus, a defect is a fault, flaw, or irregularity that causes weakness, failure, or inadequacy in form or function. A defect, for example, may be the result of a manufacturing or production error; that is, the consumer product as manufactured is not in the form intended by, or fails to perform in accordance with, its design. In addition, the design of and the materials used in a consumer product may also result in a defect. Thus, a product may contain a defect even if the product is manufactured exactly in accordance with its design and specifications, if the design presents a risk of injury to the public. A design defect may also be present if the risk of injury occurs as a result of the operation or use of the product or the failure of the product to operate as intended. A defect can also occur in a product's contents, construction, finish, packaging, warnings, and/or instructions. With respect to instructions, a consumer product may contain a defect if the instructions for assembly or use could allow the product, otherwise safely designed and manufactured, to present a risk of injury. To assist subject firms in understanding the concept of defect as used in the CPSA, the following examples are offered:

(a) An electric appliance presents a shock hazard because, through a manufacturing error, its casing can be electrically charged by full-line voltage. This product contains a defect as a result of manufacturing or production error.

(b) Shoes labeled and marketed for long-distance running are so designed that they might cause or contribute to the causing of muscle or tendon injury if used for long-distance running. The shoes are defective due to the labeling and marketing.

(c) A kite made of electrically conductive material presents a risk of electrocution if it is long enough to become entangled in power lines and be within reach from the ground. The electrically conductive material contributes both to the beauty of the kite and the hazard it presents. The kite contains a design defect.

(d) A power tool is not accompanied by adequate instructions and safety warnings. Reasonably foreseeable consumer use or misuse, based in part on the lack of adequate instructions and safety warnings, could result in injury. Although there are no reports of injury, the product contains a defect because of the inadequate warnings and instructions.

(e) An exhaust fan for home garages is advertised as activating when carbon monoxide fumes reach a dangerous level but does not exhaust when fumes have reached the dangerous level. Although the cause of the failure to exhaust is not known, the exhaust fan is defective because users rely on the fan to remove the fumes and the fan does not do so.

However, not all products which present a risk of injury are defective. For example, a knife has a sharp blade and is capable of seriously injuring someone. This very sharpness, how- ever, is necessary if the knife is to function adequately. The knife does not contain a defect insofar as the sharpness of its blade is concerned, despite its potential for causing injury, because the risk of injury is outweighed by the usefulness of the product which is made possible by the same aspect which presents the risk of injury. In determining whether the risk of injury associated with a product is the type of risk which will render the product defective, the Commission and staff will consider, as appropriate: The utility of the product involved; the nature of the risk of injury which the product presents; the necessity for the product; the population exposed to the product and its risk of injury; the obviousness of such risk; the adequacy of warnings and instructions to mitigate such risk; the role of consumer misuse of the product and the foreseeability of such misuse; the Commission's own experience and expertise; the case law interpreting Federal and State public health and safety statutes; the case law in the area of products liability; and other factors relevant to the determination. If the information available to a subject firm does not reasonably support the conclusion that a defect exists, the subject firm need not report. However, if the information does reasonably support the conclusion that a defect exists, the subject firm must then consider whether that defect could create a substantial product hazard. (See § 1115.12(f) for factors to be assessed in determining whether a substantial product hazard could exist.) If the subject firm determines that the defect could create a substantial product hazard, the subject firm must report to the Commission. Most defects could present a substantial product hazard if the public is exposed to significant numbers of defective products or if the possible injury is serious or is likely to occur. Since the extent of public exposure and/or the likelihood or seriousness of injury are ordinarily not known at the time a defect first manifests itself, subject firms are urged to report if in doubt as to whether a defect could present a substantial product hazard. On a case-by-case basis the Commission and the staff will determine whether a defect within the meaning of section 15 of the CPSA does, in fact, exist and whether that defect presents a substantial product hazard. Since a consumer product may be defective even if it is designed, manufactured, and marketed exactly as intended by a subject firm, subject firms should report if in doubt as to whether a defect exists. Defect, as discussed in this section and as used by the Commission and staff, pertains only to interpreting and enforcing the Consumer Product Safety Act. The criteria and discussion in this section are not intended to apply to any other area of the law. [43 FR 34998, Aug. 7, 1978, as amended at 71 FR 42030, July 25, 2006]