The Journal of Commerce published an Op-Ed I wrote on May 25 on the important subject of Tracking Labels. The Journal of Commerce is a widely read magazine on Capital Hill.
The toxic issue of Tracking Labels could be the poster child for absurdity of the current notion of a "precautionary" law. First of all, the very idea of "precautionary" should be carefully reconsidered. The new law is, at best, a different form of precautionary safety law. The recalls in 2007-8 make clear that in the vast majority of cases, recalls are imposed before any injuries are reported. This is certainly "precautionary" and is one reason why injuries from children's products remain low. In that epic period of notorious recalls from lead-in-paint, the number of reported injuries were . . . one. Compare this to DEATHS from swimming pools which AVERAGED 283 PER YEAR in 2003-5. We were already enjoying the benefit of STRONG precautionary laws in children's product safety BEFORE the CPSIA.
Second, tracking labels themselves are precautions taken to an absurd, dangerous extreme. As I have stated publicly, our recall rate over 25 years is 0.00001%. Put another way, of all the units we have sold in the last 25 years, 99.99999% were compliant with law. These statistics are really not far off industry standards (they are better, of course, but not by much). The famous lead-in-paint recalls of 2007-8 (a two-year period) was for far less than 0.01% of all different toys being offered for sale in the United States (99.99%+ safe). If you expand the market definition to include all children's products, like shoes, apparel, pens, etc., the recall percentage is more like Learning Resources'. Think of it - we are going to expend VAST and DEADLY amounts of money to apply tracking labels on EVERYTHING because less than 0.0001% of all children's products might be recalled in any given TWO-YEAR PERIOD. Oh yeah, that makes sense.
We are only beginning to implement tracking labels at our company. If the law is not stayed, as I hope it will, we will be compliant. HOWEVER, the way we will become compliant is the way everyone will become compliant - we will start dropping products or changing our product mix to avoid this law. The items which will die are not only economically viable today but they are also valuable and useful. They must be - we continue to sell them with a profit incentive and they keep selling. Tracking labels ALONE will kill them off. Section 103 will cause a massive die-off of products and companies - all to purportedly improve recall rates on 0.0001% of all children's products in a given year. [As I stated in my testimony at the CPSC on May 12 (second panel), even the contention that tracking labels will improve recall rates is HIGHLY suspect.] Would you EVER plan around a risk as low as one-out-of-a-million in your daily life (aside from periodically buying a lottery ticket)? If the answer is yes, you presumably remain under the covers in your bed all day long, the only place you feel totally safe.
One last, disgusting fact about Section 103 Tracking Labels - the right to impose tracking labels was already among the CPSC's powers. Tracking labels, in fact, have been required by the CPSC as part of certain standards in the past, and only required the month of manufacture, not as many probing, confidential and ridiculous data as required by the CPSIA. Presumably, if the professional staff at the CPSC thought that tracking labels would better protect the American public, they would have used their power to impose them more broadly. Thank heavens Congress knows what's best for us!
We as a society need to make sure we do not slide down the slippery slope of national blindness. Provisions like Section 103 have the potential to KILL. I am not Cassandra - this is a real issue.
Is anyone listening?