Senators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online

As holiday shoppers rush to fill online shopping carts, senators on both sides of the aisle said Tuesday that additional measures must be taken to protect consumers from potentially hazardous counterfeit products. 

Third-party online retailers, who often advertise on social media, can make it difficult for consumers to differentiate between real and counterfeit products, said Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head CNN legal analyst knocks GOP senator over remark on Biden nominee Senate GOP introduces resolution to nix Biden health worker vaccine mandate MORE (R-Tenn.) at a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

“We’re very concerned about what we see happening with some of the infiltration of counterfeit products,” Blackburn said.

ADVERTISEMENT

While many reputable third-party sellers list manufacturer information, it’s easy for bad actors to hide behind the anonymity of the web and skirt regulations, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), adding that loopholes in current consumer protection laws need to be closed.

Section 6B of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) prohibits the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from sharing information with the public about specific manufacturers until the CPSC has taken”reasonable steps” to ensure the information is accurate and fair. 

Blumenthal, who introduced a bill earlier this year to repeal 6B, said that the section delays the CPSC from disclosing hazards and puts consumers at risk. 

“Changes to 6B would improve recall efficiency and give the CPSC more of the teeth it needs to be a real tiger and not a paper watchdog,” Blumenthal said. 

While there isn’t a reliable way to track the import and sale of counterfeit goods, consumer groups have expressed concerns that the pandemic-era boom in e-commerce has led to more phony goods in American homes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Counterfeit and mislabeled goods put children at risk of choking on small parts or ingesting toxic materials, said Hannah Rhodes of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which publishes an annual toy safety report.

“It is alarming that a child could get their hands on a toy that has not been tested for safety given the hard work done by elected officials, consumer advocates and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, all of whom have helped create and enforce modern safety standards,” Rhodes said at the hearing.

In October, Customs and Border Protection officers in Baltimore seized a shipment from China of children’s games coated in unsafe levels of lead, cadmium and barium.

The CPSC, whose responsibilities range from overseeing recalls to setting product safety standards, is led by a chairperson and five commissioners who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. 

With one commissioner's seat vacant, Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Health Care — White House boosts mask availability Senate Democrats call for investigation into reported price gouging for COVID-19 tests Biden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee MORE (D-Mass.) said that the position needs to be filled soon so that the agency can get on with the business of enforcing regulations and catching offenders.

“All I want for Christmas is a fifth Consumer Product Safety Commissioner to be put in place,” Markey said. “And then families across the country can rely upon the federal government to ensure these bad companies, these bad actors, don’t endanger their children.”