The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has longstanding goals to support the needs of consumers, advance consumer recognition of CPSC, and promote positive, effective dialogue in the pursuit of the agency’s health and safety mission. The CPSC’s Consumer Ombudsman is dedicated to helping consumers understand agency activities so they may meaningfully contribute to the agency’s mission to the fullest extent allowed by law and agency policy, and to providing a pragmatic resource to assist consumers, consumer advocacy organizations, victims, victim-advocates, and other non-regulated stakeholders as they interact with the agency.
The Consumer Ombudsman’s mission is to:
- Provide an agency perspective to consumers and a consumer perspective to the agency;
- Explain agency processes, procedures, scientific principles, and technical information to consumers in plain language;
- Ensure that consumer voices are represented within agency processes;
- Serve as an educator and advisor for individual consumers and consumer organizations;
- Build relationships with consumers to enhance consumer engagement and the agency’s mission.
In accordance with all applicable CPSC statutes and regulations, the Consumer Ombudsman may:
- Analyze issues currently before the Commission, or likely to arise, and develop views and interpretations on those issues from a uniquely consumer perspective;
- Build partnerships with external stakeholders to help the Agency identify potential emerging hazards;
- Synthesize and provide feedback from consumer advocates and regulated stakeholders on the Agency’s regulatory agenda and priorities to the relevant internal stakeholders;
- Publish educational materials for enhancing consumer understanding of CPSC activities and procedures in accessible formats and venues, with clear and easy to understand language, consistent with agency policy;
- Assist consumers in identifying the appropriate CPSC staff, offices, resources, or procedures for posing questions, submitting comments and recommendations, or resolving complaints;
- Meet with consumers on an ongoing basis and ensure that the Office of the Executive Director and the Commission are informed of concerns raised by that constituency regarding agency actions;
- Assist the Voluntary Standards Coordinator in identifying consumers who may be appropriate for roles in voluntary standards consensus processes;
- Track and answer public inquiries regarding agency rules, policies, and activities in an organized, responsive, timely, and accurate manner;
- Enable and maximize solution-oriented dialogue between consumers and other stakeholders;
- Promote effective agency communication with consumers;
- Serve as an advisor and provide non-binding recommendations to the Chairman, the Commission, and CPSC staff to resolve issues regarding CPSC’s regulatory activities directly and substantially affecting consumers;
- Maintain relationships with inter-agency liaisons (federal, state, and local government agencies) to facilitate engagement with consumers;
- Identify new, relevant organizations to increase information distribution and drive greater consumer response;
- Facilitate contact between consumers with similar regulatory interests;
- Consult with consumer advocates and other stakeholders to ensure their educational needs are being satisfied by the agency;
- Organize and host outreach events and activities to engage and educate diverse consumer interests;
- Provide training, advice, and assistance to relevant CPSC staff on interactions with consumers;
- Upon request, review staff work products with consumer-related content, or advise staff on the development of consumer-related content;
- Establish cooperative relationships with a broad network to help explore and resolve controversial matters;
- Enhance the agency’s ability to interact when engaging with victims and victim-advocates;
- Refer questions to the Office of the General Counsel or the Office of the Executive Director as appropriate.
The Consumer Ombudsman is based in the Office of the Executive Director (OEX) reporting to the Deputy Executive Director for Outreach, with access to the Executive Director. The Consumer Ombudsman serves as a resource to the entire agency and to consumers and consumer stakeholders. The Ombudsman will meet regularly with, and report directly to, OEX’s Deputy Executive Director for Outreach. The Ombudsman will meet periodically with the Executive Director to highlight issues, make recommendations for resolving problems and alleviating consumer concerns, and summarize input from consumers on proposed initiatives. The Ombudsman reports directly to OEX in order to maintain the freedom to respectfully express consumer critique, dissent, or frustration without a risk of offending or otherwise hindering the teamwork of those involved. In providing guidance, the Ombudsman must seek the advice of senior executives, managers, and subject matter experts, over whom the Ombudsman does not have formal authority, to ensure through proper vetting, that work products are harmonized, consistent, and appropriate.
The Consumer Ombudsman does not:
- provide legal notice, counsel, or determinations of any kind;
- set or delay any agency deadlines;
- make agency decisions;
- create or authorize agency policies, priorities, or activities;
- modify or interfere with any laws, regulations, related policies, practices, or procedures followed or enforced by the CPSC;
- disclose or discuss any enforcement matters that are under investigation, in litigation, the subject of civil penalty investigation, or any other pre-litigation or litigation proceedings;
- disclose or discuss any human resource matters.
Contacting the Ombudsman:
Contact with the Ombudsman’s Office is entirely voluntary and free of charge. The Ombudsman serves as a resource for consumer assistance above and beyond the regular avenues of communication available for informational needs or if any consumer wishes to express a concern.
The Ombudsman will engage regularly with the public and CPSC employees to share information about the role and how the agency may provide assistance, as well as to learn about new initiatives and developments.
Access to People and Information:
In conducting his/her work, the Ombudsman will meet with CPSC employees at all levels and may obtain information and data, as needed, in accordance with existing directives. To the extent available, and subject to discretion of OEX, the Ombudsman will receive data and other reports from various agency Offices such as OCM, EXHR, and EXC to inform the Ombudsman’s work.
The Ombudsman will issue an annual report to the CPSC’s Executive Director no later than November 15 and may issue periodic reports to highlight systemic issues and make recommendations for systemic change. Each report will be reviewed by OEX management for a period of 15 business days. Such reports will be for official use only.