WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTVA) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Friday that Ross Stores Inc., of Pleasanton, Calif., has agreed to pay a $3.9 million civil penalty.
The penalty agreement has been accepted provisionally by the Commission in a 3-0 vote.
The settlement resolves CPSC staff's charges that from January 2009 to February 2012, Ross knowingly failed to report to CPSC immediately, as required by federal law, that it sold or held for sale, about 23,000 children's upper outerwear garments with drawstrings at the neck or waist.
In February 1996, CPSC issued guidelines (which were incorporated into a consensus industry voluntary standard in 1997) to help prevent children from strangling or getting entangled on neck and waist drawstrings in upper garments, such as sweatshirts and jackets.
In May 2006, the Commission posted a letter on its website which stated that staff considered children's upper outerwear with drawstrings at the hood or neck to be defective and present a substantial risk of injury to young children.
In July 2011, based on the 1996 CPSC guidelines and the 1997 voluntary standard, CPSC issued a final rule which designates the hazards presented by drawstrings in children's upper outerwear as substantial product hazards.
Ross's distribution of some children's garments occurred during the same period of time as CPSC's investigation and negotiation of a 2009 civil penalty.
The $500,000 penalty that Ross paid in 2009 was to settle staff charges that it failed to report four series of children's upper outerwear drawstring garments distributed between 2006 and 2008.
Ross's distribution of the other garments in this matter occurred either partially or entirely after the effective date of CPSC's Final Rule. There have been no reported injuries associated with the recalled garments.
In addition to paying a monetary penalty, Ross has agreed to implement and maintain a compliance program designed to ensure compliance with the reporting requirements of Section 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Final Rule.
Ross also agreed to enhance its existing compliance policies by ensuring that its ongoing program contains written standards and policies, a mechanism for confidential employee reporting of compliance-related questions or concerns, and appropriate communication of company compliance policies to all employees through training programs.
Ross has designed and implemented a system of internal controls and procedures to ensure that the firm's reporting to the Commission is timely, truthful, complete, accurate, and in accordance with applicable law.
The company will also take steps to ensure that prompt disclosure is made to management of any significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in the design or operation of such internal controls.
The Commission, in cooperation with Ross and/or other firms that manufactured, imported, or distributed the Garments, announced recalls of the garments listed below between March 2010 and May 2012:
Children's Apparel Network, Ltd.
Girls' hooded sweater with neck drawstrings
Girls' cargo pocket jacket with neck and waist drawstrings
Puma North America Inc. Youth training jacket with waist drawstrings
LA Fashion Hub Inc.
Girls' winter jacket with neck drawstrings
Boy's jacket with waist drawstrings
Boy's jogging suit with waist drawstrings
Boy's Hooded jacket with neck drawstrings
Me Jane Louise Paris Ltd
Girl's fur hood bubble fleece with waist drawstrings and Fur hooded bubble jacket with waist drawstrings
LANY Group LLC
Girls' terry hooded sweatshirt with neck drawstrings
Girls' hooded sweatshirt with neck drawstrings
Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by CPSC.
In agreeing to the settlement, Ross denies staff charges that it knowingly failed to inform the Commission about the garments, as required by CPSA §15(b).