The CPSIA gives the agency little flexibility to ameliorate its impact on small manufacturers and crafters. However, I believe that the CPSC has a real obligation to help small businesses who are trying their best to navigate the choppy regulatory waters surrounding the CPSIA. Therefore, last week, I proposed that the agency create a full time position of small business ombudsman to provide both assistance and information to small businesses trying to understand how to comply with the law. I am pleased to report that my colleagues agreed that such a position is needed.
It almost goes without saying that the impact of the CPSIA has fallen much more heavily on our country’s small business community. In a recent issue of Product Safety Letter, representatives of the giant toy company, Mattel, described efforts to comply with the CPSIA, including the number of outside lawyers the company has hired to supplement its in-house legal staff, concluding “the law…is unclear…difficult to decipher…It’s a lot of work. I don’t know how smaller companies do it.” While I recognize that a dedicated agency resource will not equalize the disproportionate burden faced by small businesses, at least there will be a place to go for help. Our challenge now will be to get the position filled as quickly as possible.