The Checkout

CPSC Chairman Has Resigned

We learned in the last hour that the chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Hal Stratton, has resigned, effective July 15.

The Republican Stratton -- a former New Mexico attorney general -- has been chairman of the CPSC for four years. According to his exceptionally brief letter of resignation (three paragraphs) that was submitted to President Bush, he does not know what his next job will be.

Republican Commissioner Nancy Nord will become the agency's acting chairman.

Consumer and safety advocates have been sharply critical of Stratton---saying his tenure has produced a lot of motion but little action. During his first two years, they noted that Stratton has taken dozens of other trips, many paid for by industry groups, including visits to China, Costa Rica, Belgium, Spain and Mexico. During the same period, critics added, the commission held few public meetings and issued only one new safety rule.

More recently, there has been a step-up in recalls and rulemaking, with some progress towards final flammability standards for mattresses and upholstered furniture. Those are rules that have been at the agency for more than a decade. And after years of repeated hearings, the agency is also moving slowly towards some action on regulating all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) used by young children. Consumer groups wanted a ban on sales of adult-sized ATVS to children under 16. The staff has opposed a ban and instead has proposed more education, training and specific safety standards, a move applauded by the ATV industry. The commission could vote on the ATV standard before Stratton leaves in mid-July.

Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, said she is hopeful that Acfting Chairman Nord will be more proactive on a number of consumer issues. Nord, who assumed her CPSC post May 2005, has, from the start, been very interested in recall effectiveness, Weintraub said. CFA has pressed for more direct notification to consumers when there is a product recall, but the commission, under Stratton, had rejected that approach. "Hopefully she will be much more actively engaged," Weintraub said.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 26, 2006; 3:43 PM ET Consumer News
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