On June 9th, Canada introduced the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (bill C-36) in the House of Commons. The bill would modernize Canada’s 40 year-old existing consumer product laws and would give the government more oversight and enforcement power.
Bill C-36 amends the schedule of prohibited products to include Bisphenol A in polycarbonate baby bottles. The new law would also prohibit products deemed to be unsafe, prohibit labels with false or deceptive health and safety claims, and give authority to Health Canada to recall dangerous products. The key provisions proposed include:
• A General Prohibition against the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety.
• Orders for Corrective Measures, including Recall. This allows for quicker government response to address an emerging health of safety problem.
• Mandatory Reporting of Incidents. Industry must report when they have knowledge of a serious incident, or death, to provide an early warning to the government.
• Ministerial Orders for Test/Study Results. Manufacturers or importers must provide information on products when so ordered to verify compliance or prevent noncompliance.
• Document Retention by Industry. This facilitates product tracing throughout the supply chain, in particular in situations where a consumer product would need to be recalled.
• Increased Fines and Penalties for Violations.
• Administrative Monetary Penalties. Penalties will be allowed to deal with noncompliance, including criminal prosecutions.
• Scope. The new law expands the scope of consumer product laws to cover the manufacture of consumer products.
• Packaging and Labeling. New prohibitions are placed on packaging, labeling or advertising that is false, misleading or deceptive, as it relates to health or safety.
Bill C-36 contains significant differences from a previous product safety bill (C-6) that was introduced in January 2009. Bill C-6 passed the House of Commons, but died in the Parliament. New changes contained in bill C-36 include, but are not limited to, authorizing the Minister to order product recalls, adding specific time frames for a review officer to complete recall orders, and eliminating an exemption from liability for inspectors entering onto or crossing over private property during an inspection.
As noted above, the new law would require industry to provide information to the Minister of Health. Such reporting will be required for any of the following consumer product safety incidents, including near misses:
• An occurrence that resulted or could reasonably be expected to have resulted in death or serious adverse health effects;
• A defect or characteristic that may reasonably be expected to result in death or serious adverse health effects;
• Inadequate labeling or instructions that could lead to such results; and/or
• A recall order or other corrective measure initiated for human health or safety reasons.
Valerie Paula is an Associate in the Regulatory Affairs Department at Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. Please see our web site at www.dorsey.com.