We've lamented it before. For the second year in a row, there are more recalls of foreign-made products in the US than recalls of US made products. And that's not even counting the Toyota mess.
The American Association for Justice is reporting that eighty-three percent (312) of the 377 recalls announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2009 were from foreign manufacturers. Even more disturbing, the 2009 CPSC data is similar to last year's 2008 numbers, when 84% (329) of recalls were from foreign manufacturers out of 392 total recalls for the year.
We shipped the jobs overseas and now we are finding out that lax manufacturing standards and loose foreign government regulation has enabled shoddy products to be built and shipped to the US, contirbuting to our trade imbalance and threatening consumer's safety.
Well on Feb. 25, U.S. Representative Betty Sutton (D-OH), Michael Turner (R-OH), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act, legislation that would make it easier for U.S. consumers to hold foreign manufacturers of defective products accountable. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL).
It's about time.
Right now, bringing a court case against a foreign manufacturer requires serving legal notice on the company in their country. That often means translating the court papers into the language of the native country and tracking down the companies’ foreign address to get it served on them. That can add lots of time and thousands of dollars in expense to the legal process.
And even then the foreign company may ignore the US court process completely.
One example of foreign manufacturers escaping accountability involves Taishan Gypsum, a Chinese manufacturer of drywall. Over 500 million pounds of the sulfuric gas-emitting Chinese drywall was shipped to the U.S., which is now plaguing thousands of homeowners. Taishan Gypsum, a company owned by the Chinese government, is currently being held in default for failing to respond to a putative class action brought by builders that used the company’s drywall in homes. So homeowners may end up with surfur gas in their homes and not be able to make the Chinese company stand up to its responsibility for it.
That's a huge hole in our legal system that foreign companies have been taking advantage of for years. And it's about time the loophole was closed.
So what are the foreign products that safety investigators at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled?
Products sold here by Fisher Price, LL Bean, The Disney Company, Old Navy, True Value, Dicks Sporting Goods, Maytag, Tupperware, RadioShack, Best Buy, The Home Depot, Build a Bear Workshop, Frontgate, LEGO Systems, Frigidaire, IKEA Home Furnishings, Target, and hundreds and hundreds more companies.
To see the full list of 2009 recalls, see http://www.justice.org/resources/Recalls_of_CPSC_2009.pdf .
To see the full list of 2008 recalls, see http://www.justice.org/resources/Recalls_of_CPSC_2008.pdf .
And then there's Toyota, which is all its own story.
It's all enough to make you start buying American made products again. Well, that's about time too.
Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.