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California Importer Hit with $655,000 Fine in Defective Products Case

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Washington, DCWhile there have been no injuries cited, the potential for personal injury from a collection of defective products sold by OKK Trading of Commerce, California might have been enormous. This month the company agreed to pay a civil penalty in the amount of $665,000 for failure to comply with the long-standing federal ban on lead paint in toys, together with violations of other federal child safety standards. The fine was the result of defective products personal injury investigations conducted by the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

Toy StoreAs part of the settlement, OKK Trading denies that it knowingly broke the law.

According to a release by the CPSC dated June 25th OKK Trading is alleged by CPSC staff to have knowingly imported and sold toys with paints containing lead levels that exceeded safe limits established in 1978. That particular allegation covered a period beginning November 2007 and ending August 2008.

There are other allegations.

CPSC staff alleged that beginning in December 2004 OKK Trading imported and sold toys containing small parts that allegedly violated CPSC regulations with regard to choking hazards.

From November 2004 through January 2005, OKK Trading is alleged to have imported rattles that were in violation of the agency's safety guidelines for infant rattles.

Various other allegations were made with regard to the company's involvement with the importation of toys and games that violated CPSC labeling requirements for balloons, small balls and small parts. A similar labeling requirement was allegedly mishandled with the importation of art supplies.

From November 2004 to January 2005, according to the June 25th CPSC release, OKK Trading is alleged to have imported and sold infant pacifiers that violated the agency's safety requirements for pacifiers, including the prohibition on small parts.

Finally, OKK Trading was accused by CPSC staff of knowingly exporting noncompliant toys in violation of federal notification requirements. Those specific allegations covered the period May 2007 through December of that year.

In all, OKK Trading activity that was cited by the CPSC covered the period November 2004, through August of last year—a period of almost four years.

According to the CPSC release, OKK Trading informed the agency that it had received no reports of incidents or injuries involving the products covered by the settlement.

It should also be noted that as part of the settlement agreement that sees OKK Trading paying a fine in excess of $600,000 it denies the various CPSC allegations that it knowingly violated the law.

While this particular matter has been settled to the agreement of both sides, the message it sends to consumers is that often it is preferable to seek forgiveness than ask permission, especially if there are profits to be made. Given the influx of imported products into the US and the apparent propensity for some importers to push the regulatory envelope, the onus is on the consumer to thoroughly check toys and other products for hazards in an effort to protect from defective product personal injury. At the end of the day, it's buyer beware.


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