Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Consumer Product Safety (and the CPSIA)

Rick Woldenberg has written yet another compelling post on the impact of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act on his Blog.

Here is the link to today's article: http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/2009/07/cpsia-how-to-solve-your-problems.html

Written in an AnswerMan format, the post highlights the contradictions and confusion surrounding the CPSIA.

Regular 108Warren Commission readers will recognize this as a familiar topic -- see my earlier post here -- and others will recognize the topic from other writings over the past few months.

For those of you who may have missed it, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in response to the rash of recall notices on products made in China during 2007 and 2008. It was passed in 2008, with provisions going into effect in staggered fashion throughout 2009.

This should go without saying, but 108Warren Commission is completely in favor of product safety -- particularly for children's products. Unfortunately this law does absolutely nothing to make children's products safer -- instead, because of its complexity and contradictory nature it hurts those company's that try to comply, and simply eases the way for the unscrupulous to compete with honorable companies.

The issues with this law are legion, and are better covered in other places -- see Amend the CPSIA, Overlawyered.com, CPSIA-Central, and many others...

What is particularly troubling is that despite the deep and thoughtful issues raised by the people who are affected by this law, there has been no response from Congress. The legitimate concerns are routinely ignored, or even worse, are tossed aside as carping. Even the Consumer Product Safety Commission has made it clear that the law, as written, is too restrictive, and does not allow the CPSC to use its institutional experience and expertise to actually make products safer for children.

Instead of working to resolve fundamental issues, Congress is ignoring them, and small businesses across the country are failing. Libraries and schools are restricting access to books published before 1985.

In the coming month, companies are going to be required to comply with another part of the CPSIA -- new tracking labels that identify the source factory (whether that is proprietary information or not), and batch and run information. While this sounds reasonable at first, think about how to put it into practice, and the problems start to jump out at you... Where does the label go? How large does it have to be? do I have to list my actual factory so that my competitors can go then go contact them directly? What about for small items -- how do I fit a label on something small... the list goes on and on.

And that doesn't even begin to cover the problem for folks whose business is crafting handmade items... Milagros Boutique has written a good piece on the impact: http://milagrosboutique.com/2009/07/06/imagine-no-handmade-items/.

Sadly, with just over a month to go before this provision is active, there is ZERO guidance on how businesses can comply with this law... Faced with these burdens, and in a down economy, this will push even more businesses into trouble, and will put more people out of work.