CPSC Seeks Comments Related to IoT Consumer Products CPSC Seeks Comments Related to IoT Consumer Products

CPSC Seeks Comments Related to IoT Consumer Products

On March 27, 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a notice of Public Hearing and Request for Written Comments relating to potential safety issues and hazards associated with internet-connected consumer products. In doing so, the CPSC noted that internet connectivity of products has the potential to introduce new harms or hazards into products where none may have existed before. The CPSC has placed the potential hazards into four general categories: 

  1. Remote operation, such as a heating element, which can be remotely activated;
  2. Unexpected operating conditions, including a robotic vacuum that may suddenly operate faster than expected;
  3. Loss of a safety function, including a home security system, which deactivates as a default; and,
  4. Hazard created from an intended product feature.
The CPSC has explicitly stated that the hearing will not address personal data security or privacy issues related to IoT devices. 

The CPSC provides some insight into its approach through the large list of areas for discussion included in the notice. Among these topics are: 1) questions related to potential standards and certifications; 2) controls or supervisory assistance available to mitigate potential hazards and prevent injuries; 3) IoT-related incidents and injuries, which have already occurred; and, 4) collaboration CPSC should have with various entities.
 
One of the specific questions raised by the CPSC, which could greatly limit the development of IoT products, is whether remote operation should be limited on connected products in which there is a potential hazard through remote operation. Another topic raised by the CPSC, which could have a financial effect on companies, is how responsibilities for hazards among the various contributors to an internet-connected product should be viewed for liability purposes. Interestingly, an area of discussion noticeably absent from the CPSC's list of discussion topics is the potential control and/or elimination of hazards due to the internet connectivity of a product. 

The outcome of these discussions will have far reaching effects for companies involved in consumer-connected products—whether manufacturer, designer, or programmer. For this reason, we encourage companies to consider the various topics and issues being raised by the CPSC and, if appropriate, provide comments. The comment period ends on June 15, 2018. More information can be found here.

Judy Okenfuss is a managing partner of Ice Miller and the chair of the Firm's Internet of Things Industry Group. Judy focuses on studying how interconnected products will change traditional law relating to products, including design of state-of-the-art products, supply-chain litigation, and recalls. Judy may be reached at judy.okenfuss@icemiller.com or 317-236-2115. For additional IoT information, please visit Ice Miller’s IoT Resource Center.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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