Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CPSIA - I'm Back! (Update)

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 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

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.



Lora said...


I am so sorry that you and others have to fight this battle.

My main reason to responding is that NO ONE seems to know about H.R. 968!!! This bill was introduce February 10th and currently has 7 cosponsors.

The bill makes much more sense than Rep.Bobby Bright's.

I, personally, would like to get on with my business, as I'm sure many of you do, too.

War is hell.


Wacky Hermit said...

I'm afraid I can't help much to defray the expenses, but I have an idea. Maybe we could have a fundraising event for the fight against CPSIA. I'd certainly donate merchandise (CPSIA compliant-- till August) to be auctioned off. I bet a lot of others like me who are too small to help much would donate, too. We did this for our charter school. I know this is bigger than a charter school, but maybe it could scale up somehow?

Cynthia said...

I think an auction, especially online, would be GREAT idea. Press could be generated way before the event and with the diversity of businesses affected by CPSIA what can be offered could be pretty fabulous and attention drawing!

I think Rick's idea is great. The CPSIA debacle needs a good PR firm behind EVERYONE to keep this issue front and center - and help leap the hurdles in the public mind that a) it's only a 'toy' law and 2) by wanting to change or 'scrap and rewrite' this law we want to kill kids.

Count me in - I'll donate stuff and some money or something. Can we find someone to do a web site for it/auction?

Jane said...

Yes, an auction is a great idea. I have been wanting to help somehow for a long time, and would be happy to donate. I know many of the craft bloggers would love to assist as well.

Eric Black said...

No surprise that Congress has limited scope in their reading material. Otherwise, they might have read that there are no known cases in US history of harm to children (or anyone) from very nearly all of the "children's products" that are now subject to the testing requirements of the CPSIA.

It's remarkable that the law was drafted so as to require scientific proof (and peer review) to exempt inherently safe items from the testing requirements, yet the testing requirements, the allowable levels, and the timetable for their implementation were written into law apparently without so much as a nod to scientific study or evidence.