By Lynn L. Bergeson, Lisa M. Campbell, and Carla N. Hutton
Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, wrote to Amazon Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chair Jeff Bezos on October 7, 2020, requesting that he launch an investigation into the safety of Amazon’s product line, AmazonBasics, and answer a series of questions pertaining to the company’s product safety and recall practices. The Committee’s October 7, 2020, press release notes that the request comes after a CNN investigation found that many of AmazonBasics’ electronic products “have exploded, caught fire, sparked, melted, or otherwise created hazardous situations at rates well above comparable products.” According to the press release, many of these products were never recalled and continue to be sold.
In addition to their request that Bezos initiate an investigation into the safety of AmazonBasics products, Pallone and Schakowsky also seek answers to a series of questions, including:
- What Amazon-owned products are no longer for sale due at least in part to safety concerns?
- What products -- both Amazon-owned and third party -- have been officially recalled?
- What notification does Amazon provide to customers who have purchased products that are later recalled or found to be unsafe?
- In addition to direct notification, what other kinds of consumer or public outreach does Amazon conduct to ensure consumers properly dispose of, repair, or replace an unsafe product?
- How can consumers find information regarding recalled products? If information is not readily available, why not, and what plans exist to make it available?
- How can consumers report product safety issues to Amazon?
- How many staff does Amazon have devoted to ensuring that products sold on its platform follow all applicable laws and regulations, and that Amazon is in compliance with obligations to notify the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when a product is suspected of being unsafe?
The letter requests a response no later than October 21, 2020.
The letter and request for answers to the questions noted above are another indication of the pressure certain Members in Congress are putting on Amazon to ensure the safety of the products the platform hosts. Amazon is under increasing scrutiny by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in this regard, as reported in our February 16, 2018, and June 17, 2020, blog items, and this Congressional inquiry seems more of the same. These efforts will almost certainly cause more pressure on product manufacturers to ensure the products they offer for sale on Amazon are compliant.
By Sheryl Lindros Dolan and James V. Aidala
The Appropriations Bill that is expected to be signed into law on February 15, 2019, provides funding for the rest of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and averts another federal government shutdown. It does not, however, include either an extension of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act (PRIA 3) or Reauthorization, widely referred to as PRIA 4. This omission was a surprise to industry and to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On February 13, 2019, the Senate introduced a stand-alone PRIA 4 bill (S. 483). Acting swiftly, the Senate passed the bill on February 14, 2019, by unanimous consent. S. 483 directly references H.R. 1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017, from the last Congress, with amendments passed by the Senate on June 28, 2018.
S. 483 has moved to the House, where the timing of a vote currently is unclear. The House will go into a week-long recess after today. It is possible that the bill will not further progress until the House reconvenes on February 25, 2019.
The effect on EPA and the regulated community during this transition is also unclear. Currently, EPA is sorting out applications and PRIA deadlines along with workload planning in the aftermath of the recently concluded federal government shutdown. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) provides for a reduction in applicable fees if PRIA is not reauthorized, but it is unclear if applications submitted during the transition will be assigned a PRIA review date. If PRIA 4 is passed, we expect that the fee provisions will be retroactive and that EPA will send invoices to applicants for submissions made during the transition period for the difference between what was paid and the new PRIA 4 fee.
More information on these topics is available in our blog items "Federal Budget Deal Negotiations Fail to Advance PRIA Reauthorization" and "Continuing Resolution to Re-open the Government Includes PRIA Extension."
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 4, 2017, the White House announced the release of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (2017 Update). The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to regulating biotechnology products. Together with the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, published in September 2016, the Update to the Coordinated Framework offers a “complete picture of a robust and flexible regulatory structure that provides appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.” Within that regulatory structure, the federal agencies “maintain high standards that, based on the best available science, protect health and the environment, while also establishing transparent, coordinated, predictable and efficient regulatory practices.” To help product developers and the public understand what the regulatory pathway for products might look like, the 2017 Update presents information about agency roles and responsibilities in several forms, including:
- Graphics that illustrate agency-specific overviews of regulatory roles;
- Case studies that demonstrate how a product developer might navigate the regulatory framework; and
- A comprehensive table that summarizes the current responsibilities and the relevant coordination across EPA, FDA, and USDA for the regulatory oversight of an array of biotechnology product areas.
In its blog item, “Increasing the Transparency, Coordination, and Predictability of the Biotechnology Regulatory System,” the Obama Administration acknowledges that while the 2017 Update represents “remarkable progress by the EPA, FDA, and USDA to modernize the regulatory system for biotechnology products, much work remains.” EPA, FDA, and USDA will consider the comments submitted in response to the proposed 2017 Update and information gathered during the three public engagement sessions hosted by EPA, FDA, and USDA to inform ongoing and future agency activities. In addition, the agencies commissioned an independent study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on future biotechnology products. When completed, the agencies will consider the study’s findings, as well as the comments. More information on the Update to the Coordinated Framework will be available in our forthcoming memorandum, which will be available on our website under the key phrase biobased products, biotechnology.