Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CPSIA - WARNING: Spine Alert!

761 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are only 50 days left until Election Day.

Imagine pushing back on a regulatory agency. Imagine protesting demands for a knee-jerk recall of an item without a demonstrated (as opposed to asserted) substantial product hazard. Imagine someone standing up to the CPSC. Imagine . . . .

Okay, it didn't happen here. But Elfe Juvenile Products did zing the CPSC in its letter resisting a mimic recall of strollers by Health Canada. It even took them to task for a crib recall - wow! Without coming out and using pejorative terms, only implying them, Elfe accused Health Canada of "blindly" following the CPSC and conceding the authority of the U.S. agency. That can't be a compliment . . . .

“'My review of the applicable Canadian legislation does not reveal any mandate given to Health Canada to blindly accept decisions made by an administrative agency in a foreign jurisdiction. To do so, would, of course, be an unacceptable submission to the sovereignty of another country,' Ivan Bern, Elfe’s general counsel, wrote to Health Canada on Jan. 19."

Ouch. The next day our highly reactive agency announced a recall of 1.5 million strollers for laceration hazards and fingertip amputations.

Have you ever scratched your head and asked why the stroller and crib folks aren't pushing back? Well, confronting a federal agency that has already sic'ced the U.S. Attorney on some of its hapless victims (notably, Daiso) and rabid State Attorneys General like Illinois' Lisa Madigan is to tempt a deluge of litigation all over the country, merited or not. And they are certainly not above manipulating the press for the kind of hysterical headlnes certain to kill your business. Look at baby slings. Bankruptcy is your likely fate if you try to defend yourself. Never litigate with someone who has a printing press, as they say.

Well, one of them finally spoke up. The day after the U.S. stroller recall, Health Canada posted a recall for the Elfe-distributed stroller for the same hazard. "'In our opinion, there is no ‘trend’ to be discerned, unless it is that of 1,499,993 consumers acting responsibly, and possible seven instances where the goal of perfection in human behaviour was demonstrated to be unattainable,' Elfe’s general counsel told Health Canada." Not that it mattered what they thought - Health Canada proceeded with a recall immediately anyhow.

To add to the strangeness of this interaction, Elfe was also a distributor of Simplicity cribs at the time. Those cribs started crib mania at the CPSC and also created a craze over "responsible parties" after Simplicity was driven into bankruptcy. The CPSC busily talked down Simplicity cribs, labeling them "dangerous". No statistical analysis of the use of these cribs was released to my knowledge, just an injury count over many years. [I raised three children with dropside cribs without incident. I was also raised in a dropside crib to my knowledge. Although some people think I was dropped on my head as a child, that's not the crib's fault.]

Consider what happened next in Canada: "Following these statements, Elfe, the former distributor of Simplicity products in Canada, provided different advice to Canadian parents, telling them to make sure the crib was assembled properly. And 'if the drop-side is installed upside down or not securely attached,' Elfe recommended parents reinstall the drop-side the proper way with new hardware, to be provided free of charge by the company. A few days later, Health Canada posted Elfe’s voluntary recall on its website, saying the department had assessed Elfe’s metal retrofit kit and determined that it did not adequately correct the hazard posed by the drop-side crib. The newly released private correspondence reveals Elfe didn’t think this course of action was needed, accusing Health Canada again 'deferring to the CPSC’s unilateral actions' in the face of negative press." [Emphasis added]

Frankly, this is the closest the press has come to reporting the truth about the CPSC and the mania spawned by the CPSIA. The CPSC is feeding public perceptions of danger where the agency formerly took the view that consumers bore some responsibility to use their equipment properly and to maintain it in good condition. Nowadays, these issues are twisted into asserted "substantial product hazards" and are accompanied by a government-sponsored negative publicity campaign (think of all the Good Morning America appearances you have seen Tenenbaum make). The agency almost blatantly dares companies to push back - with Lisa Madigan, Jerry Brown and other State Attorney General thugs waiting to pounce. The toxic commercial environment in the U.S. is not enough to satiate them - they must cross borders to spread ill will and poisonous markets to other countries.

There is no way to argue with this kind of tyranny. Their assertions are considered "findings". The political nature of such "findings" is rarely outed. Even when the company itself initiates a recall, the agency implicitly claims it as its own (like a skin on the wall) and announces it as one of its consumer "triumphs". These recalls exist on the CPSC website as precedent undistinguished from other recalls - influencing the decision-making of other companies and eroding the confidence of consumers. With the CPSC imprimatur, recalls are taken as signs of further corporate bad behavior.

Hats off to Elfe for at least trying to push back. I wish they had more company. The only way to end this kind of regulatory tyranny is to expose it and to resist corporate slander at the hands of a rogue agency.


Geoff Jones said...

Following on the heels of the McDOnanld's "recall" is one by a company called "Fun Stuff". Apparently they had a product they were marketing to children aged 3+ had warnings all over the packaging, yet the CPSC is recalling the the product because "CPSC staff has designated these toys for children between the ages of 19 to 35 months." It is nice to know that the CPSC is now providing this public service. For 2 years business has been asking for bettetr guidance, it now appears that we can start submitting toys to the agency and they will tell us the age grading. That makes me feel so much better.

See the recall for yourself and be prepared to be amazed...


jennifer said...

When I was a baby my finger had to be repaired by a plastic surgeon due to a stroller incident. There was nothing wrong with the stroller, I put my finger where it wasn't supposed to be and my mother wasn't watching me. Same story different time.

halojones-fan said...

I'm left wondering whether it might not be good to just start a false-flag operation. Send in "test reports" of high lead content in everthing that Mattel produced. Send in test reports for EVERYTHING, in fact, alleging high lead content. Make sure to CC the company itself on official-looking letterhead. Put CPSC in the position of shutting down EVERY toy sale in the nation, and then force them to justify it to the public.

halojones-fan said...

On the other hand, as more and more manufacturers go direct-to-consumer, it's going to be harder for the CPSC to enforce recalls. In the past, it didn't matter how much "spine" the manufacturer had; if TRU doesn't carry it then it doesn't get bought. Things are starting to be different.

jennifer said...

I am a fan doing away with drop sided cribs. Too many people playing handyman with small parts does not turn out well - better to not have moving parts if the general public has to follow installation instructions for these cribs - remember they don't buy them assembled.

But this stroller stuff is non-sense. I own one of those MacClaren recalled strollers and didn't "fix it". I used it for 4 years (still use it) and there is nothing wrong with it. Basically you have to read the manual and make sure yours or your children's fingers aren't in the way when opening and closing it. I am sure this is similar. If you make 1 million of something someone always misuses it. That is not the fault of the company.

My child has a higher likelihood of slamming his finger in a drawer or door then me closing it on the stroller.

So once all these manufacturers throw up their hands - how will they propose children be transported?

Ben S said...

"In our opinion, there is no ‘trend’ to be discerned, unless it is that of 1,499,993 consumers acting responsibly, and possible seven instances where the goal of perfection in human behaviour was demonstrated to be unattainable."

I'm going to frame this.

It's worth noting that the drop-side crib ban is discriminatory against short people. Can't wait till we see a recall because someone couldn't reach the mattress to set their baby down gently and had to drop them instead.

Sebastian said...

We used a drop sided crib for all three kids, then passed it along to a couple having a bonus baby. It was a solid, hardwood frame that would provide lots more good use. The directions for assembly were right on the bottom of the crib board, so it wasn't even as though you had to retain a booklet.
My inlaws still have a crib that is a three decades old. It's pulled out everytime a grandchild is visiting. And I have no fears about using it.
I'd love to see a comparison of crib injuries to injuries caused by children falling off of beds.

Anonymous said...

Wondering what to make of this. These are for children under 12??