Hi Guys, sorry I have been absent for a few days. Tradeshow season has me scrambling. In addition, there has been more than the usual disarray in the wake of the February 10 standard implementation. But I'm back, thanks for waiting.
Some updates for you:
a. I am at the ICPHSO meeting this week as a panelist. See http://www.icphso.org/ for more information. This is a gathering of safety professionals, government officials, consumer groups and other interested individuals. Many of the usual suspects are here, and it promises to be a very productive and interesting couple days.
Although we just got started today, there already has been news. Gib Mullan, the head of Enforcement at the CPSC, has just stated publicly the Agency's intention to change its policy on penalties. In the last year, the CPSC has imposed 19 penalties (Mullan). Allan Schoem in the same panel discussion noted that penalties have always been de-emphasized at the agency (he was Gib Mullan's predescessor), limited to perhaps 12 per year for cases deemed extreme by the staff. Gib indicated that this policy is changing. They now intend to impose many more penalties (small and medium-sized) in order to drive the "deterrent effect" downstream. Wow, this should be lots of fun. . . .
Of course, this is hardly a surprise to me. I have written about it in the past (call me paranoid). The powers granted to the agency under the CPSIA was intended to be used. The anger of Congress was clearly expressed, and the intention to shift to a punishment approach to regulation is the "new way". Bob Adler in the same panel discussion mentioned that psychologists at the UNC where he teaches have found that incentives are much more effective in inducing behavior change than penalties. Hmmm. Apparently Congress never read that study. A little selective in their sourcing of information, perhaps?
There is a lot to worry about in this important shift. The cost of interacting with this agency is already HIGH. There will be significant legal fees, very significant costs for recalls, loss of business from damaged commercial reputation, and NOW big penalties. Many people, perhaps naively, represent themselves with the CPSC. This will be foolhardy in the future. It is worth noting how penalties are "negotiated" with the CPSC. If you don't want to pay, you certainly don't have to. If you choose to fight, all you need to do is litigate with the U.S. government. They own the big printing presses, in case you forgot. After you spend the amount of the penalty in legal fees (takes about five minutes), you may quickly come to your senses. So, you pay or you pay more. Recalls will be insant death for some companies. Now that's a heckuva of a deterrent, don't you think? Nothing like randomness in your life to give you focus.
b. I am about to hire a firm to help represent our interests with the press and in government relations on the CPSIA. This is meant to help keep our issues alive. As we move away from February 10, and as the terrible costs of this law become burned in and unrecoverable, our ability to motivate Congress to save us will probably decline. There will be less left to rescue. We need to be ever more proactive in our continuing effort to fight, fight, fight this law. If you are interested in participating in this advocacy process or would be willing to help defray some of this expense, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
c. I have been invited to testify before the Subcommittee on Regulations and Healthcare of the House Committee on Small Business next Thursday. The purpose of this hearing is to explore Small Business issues related to the CPSIA. The Subcommittee is still looking for small businesses to testify. I know the TIA wants to find a Pennsylvania small business (please contact Carter Keithley or Ed Desmond at the TIA if you want to help out). If you are motivated to testify, you may want to reach out to the Subcommittee staff to volunteer, or if you have a Congressman on the Subcommittee, contact their Washington office urgently.
This is a great opportunity to get on the record. One of the members of this Subcommittee, Rep. Bobby Bright, has already launched a (narrow) bill to amend the CPSIA. I hope we can score some points and raise the urgency of the debate - before it's too late.
PLEASE don't give up. We are not lost, but have to double down our efforts and communications. I am still flogging away and hope you will stick with it, too.
More to follow.