Archive for November, 2009

“Incredible India” meets the CPSIA

The philosopher George Santayana wrote: “If we do not learn from the mistakes of others, we are bound to repeat them”.  With that in mind, this week I am in India talking with apparel, textile and footwear manufacturers and exporters about the challenges of the CPSIA.  As exports to the U.S. from India continue to grow, Indian manufacturers are determined not to repeat the experiences of their counterparts in China. 

I have made several speeches about the new law and held meetings to discuss its requirements with apparel and other business representatives in New Delhi as well as in Chennai, which is the center of the Indian leather industry.  I also met with representatives of several Indian consumer organizations.

Indian exporters are aware that there is a new safety law in place in the U.S. but know few of the details. My task here is to explain to them both the requirements of the law and the reasons behind it — and that is no easy task.  Like those in the U.S., Indian apparel and footwear manufacturers view safety as a core value.  However, I have heard the point made repeatedly that manufacturers make products to the specifications they are given by those importing products into the U.S.  This emphasizes the key responsibility of those U.S. companies who source their products overseas.   Safety and quality assurance must be integrated links in the entire supply chain. 

Like their U.S. counterparts, the Indian businesses with whom I have been talking are very anxious about the testing and certification requirements in the new law.  They are concerned about both the cost and availability of testing laboratories.  They need the CPSC to clarify testing and certification requirements as early as possible and in a manner that minimizes burdens and gives them plenty of lead time to adjust to those requirements.  In this respect, they are no different from their U.S. counterparts.

Many manufacturers here were unaware that the new law now calls for non-complying imported products to be destroyed rather than be re-exported.  One of my core messages to them:  the CPSC wants to work with them to help them get it right to avoid violations. 

The challenges that U.S. companies face in complying with the CPSIA are shared by businesses around the world that make and export products to the U.S.  In this world, what goes around does indeed come around.  And we want it made with safety in mind.

Testing 1, 2, 3…

A couple of days ago, a very interesting document was put up on the CPSC web site and I want to draw your attention to it.  It is a proposed guidance document on testing and certification requirements under the CPSIA. It discusses such topics as component testing, periodic testing and reasonable testing.

The Commission will be briefed by the staff on this proposed guidance today, November 9, 2009, at 1 pm EST and the briefing will be webcast.  Please see the CPSC website for details.  Bottom line is this:  we know these issues are incredibly complex.  We need as much input as we can get as we struggle with writing guidance and later regulations that protect consumers and work for product manufacturers and sellers. 

On November 10, the commissioners will be briefed on progress in establishing a public data base of complaints received about consumer products.  A consumer complaint database is another requirement of the CPSIA. Information about this briefing is also available on the website.  While the purpose of the database is to get useful information to consumers, there is the real potential that incomplete and inaccurate information in the data base could mislead consumers and result in abusive litigation against product sellers. Again, your input will be informative as we move forward with this database. 

I have found the comments responding into this blog to be very useful as I consider the many policy issues coming before the Commission.  Again, thank you all for taking the time to comment.  Please know that we are doing our best under difficult circumstances to implement this law in as sensible a way as possible.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks (and toys, and hooks, and hinges…)

First of all thanks for following my blog,  I appreciate your comments.  I want this to be a place where you can voice your opinions and share your ideas on activities at the Commisison.  Many of you have already participated in this dialogue and I encourage you to continue.

 The lack of flexibility in the lead provisions of the CPSIA effectively requires the Agency to force from the market products that no one considers a real safety risk.  This does not advance consumer safety, diverts staff resources from real safety issues, and puts an unnecessary burden on manufacturers and sellers of children’s products.  Today at our Commission public meeting we were presented with a vivid example of this fact. I encourage you to view the webcast.  Click on “Commission Public Briefing/Meeting (Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.).” My colleague Commissioner Anne Northup made especially persuasive arguments that did not, however, carry the day.

 By a 3 to 2 vote the Commission denied a petition for an exclusion from the CPSIA lead provisions for a small brass fitting on a toy car.  The Commission also voted down a motion I offered to stay enforcement until Congress could address the reach of this provision. See my statement  on today’s vote.

The implications of this vote are significant for the following reasons, among others:

  • First, this is the first opportunity that the newly reconstituted CPSC with three new commissioners, has had to consider the appplication of the lead provisions.  The Commission has now very clearly determined that we do not have the flexibility under the law to make common sense decisions with respect to lead.
  • Second, the impact of this decision goes well beyond the particular toy subject to the petition.  I am especially concerned about what this decision means for our schools, where brass is found on desk hinges, coat hooks, locker pulls and many other items.  Are schools now going to be forced to remove all brass and if so, who will bear this financial burden?
  • Third, brass is found throughout a home and removing it from toys does little in terms of removing it from a child’s environment. If brass were really harmful to children, we would be taking action to remove it from the home but no one is suggesting that there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed in this way. 
  • Fourth, there will be significant economic injury to not only the company that filed the petition, but also to other companies making children’s products with brass in them. 

There has been much lip service, both in Congress and at the CPSC, about common sense application of the law.  Today’s action provides no lip balm.

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