This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to High Point, North Carolina to meet with furniture manufacturers during the industry’s biannual trade show. I was blown away by the high level of creativity and workmanship I saw in the various furniture showrooms. They were blown away by the requirements that the CPSC is imposing on them.
The message I heard over and over was that the requirements we are imposing, along with the growing list of other federal and state regulatory requirements they are facing, is becoming an overwhelming burden that is pushing a once-proud American industry off-shore. Several manufacturers that I visited described to me in detail the safety and quality control procedures they have in place–procedures that are working well–and were very critical of our insistence that they change what is working. They were especially angry that changes are being required when there is no demonstrable evidence that enhanced safety will result but there is demonstrable evidence of the significant costs that will be incurred. One furniture company CEO made the point that, in business, costs must be measured against the benefits that will come from additional expenditures. He rightly asked why this principle did not apply to government.
While I expected to hear criticism (and did I!) about the testing requirements we are imposing, I was surprised to hear the strong outrage that was leveled against our proposal to create a public database. I heard that the agency does not appear to be concerned about fairness and does not care that unfounded complaints could damage the reputation of a company. I heard that the agency has an unrealistic view of how and whether a company can reasonably respond to database complaints. I heard story after story about how the database could be used in a pernicious manner by unscrupulous competitors, trial lawyers and advocates for special causes who could salt it with unfounded complaints. I heard that the agency is ignoring these concerns and the sense of trust that you can get a fair shake at the CPSC has been seriously eroded.
We should be working cooperatively with those who make and sell products to assure that safety is built into their products without costly, unproductive regulations. “Loss of faith in government regulations to further safety without unnecessary costs”—that’s an unacceptable report I bring back from this meeting. It’s very troubling and could be avoided with some common sense.