Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CPSIA - NAM Stay Tracking Labels Petition Up for a Vote on Friday

Remarkably, the CPSC has docketed a vote on the NAM Tracking Labels Emergency Stay petition for this Friday. The requested 12 month delay, which would be the fourth stay issued under the CPSIA, facilitates a rational exploration of the many tracking label issues and at least arguably allows manufacturers time to transition appropriately to the new rules. The Commission should vote to implement this stay request. Not only is it unacceptable to impose this kind of burden on such short notice without implementing rules (a practical impossibility for many industries with long leadtimes, like apparel), but frankly, the provision is overly-burdensome and could be fatal to many businesses (without compensating benefit to consumers). Myself, I have always felt the tracking labels provision was the worst part of this bad law. These issues need further exploration with industry input.

With President Obama's appointment this week of two new Commissioners at the CPSC (subject to Senate confirmation), hearings are likely to occur (eventually) under the auspices of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It will be interesting to see if any semblance of open dialogue is permitted at that time. In any event, the testimony of the new Chairman (and perhaps others) will be an indicator of whether further relief will be allowed. The speculation from Rumorville is that the message of a Democratic Chairman will be much better received by Congress, even if the message is exactly the same as less-palatable previous witnesses have delivered. The current situation where the CPSC must keep issuing stays to resolve safety dilemmas, leadtime issues or basic fairness and equity is completely intolerable and even the consumer groups and legislators are admitting it (privately). One hopes, perhaps naively, that at the time of a hearing, Congress will find the resolve to address these issues openly and with an open mind.

Ironically, the greatest outcast in this "safety war" has the greatest ability to contribute to a solution. Corporate America doesn't deserves its title of Public Enemy Number One and wears the crown with unease. If the new Commissioners can foster a renewed environment of trust on Capitol Hill, perhaps industry input can finally be considered constructively. Since far less than 1% of companies affected by the CPSIA have ever had a run-in with the CPSC or are known to have caused torts because of lead or phthalates, it seems likely that their expertise in their businesses and their products can be useful in crafting rules that facilitate better safety while not choking off commerce. I continue to believe this is possible.

Step one: vote for the tracking labels stay!

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