Consumer Safety Act Gets Mixed Reaction

As the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) reached its first anniversary August 14,
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Inez Tenenbaum was sanguine about
accomplishments to date, but that’s not exactly how clothing and footwear manufacturers and small
businesses see it.

Tenenbaum said CPSC is educating domestic and overseas manufacturers, importers and
distributors of children’s products about “important new safety requirements” that will make
children better protected in their homes. She cited new regulations covering lead content in
children’s products, the prospect of heavier civil penalties for product safety violators, a
program to require tracking labels on products intended for use by children under 12 years of age
and warnings in advertising of products that present a possible choking hazard.

While Tenenbaum was outlining progress, Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for
Liberty, a Washington-based organization representing small businesses, was highly critical of the
new law. In an interview with Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper with a broad readership among
members of Congress and their staffs, Langer said. “The landmark legislation was intended to
enhance the safety of children’s products. However, good intentions are no excuse for bad
legislation. The unintended consequences of CPSIA  have created great confusion among
consumers, economic risks for small businesses and further health risks for small children.”

Langer was particularly critical of the act’s third-party testing requirements, saying the
costs of testing could put small companies out of business.

Langer said he did not blame the CPSC for the regulations it has promulgated, but said the
problems stem from “unwieldy legislation.” And he called on Congress to revisit the legislation and
make changes in the testing requirement. Without changes, he said,  CPSIA will create more
risk than protection to children and hurt the nation’s economy.

Likewise, Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association,
said the CPSIA was “well intentioned” but has missed its mark by going far beyond its originally
intended purpose of keeping unsafe toys off the market. Instead, he said, it has created a “guilty
until proven innocent compliance environment even for products that have always been safe.” As a
result, he said, manufacturers of children’s products are spending tremendous resources in
duplicate testing of their products in order to comply with the law. He said the extra costs are
doing little to improve safety but are “adding enormous pressures to companies already scrambling
to cope with the economic downturn.”

Burke called on Congress to conduct hearings in which all stakeholders would have an
opportunity to document the early successes and failures of the CPSIA and make it work  more
effectively to carry out its intended purpose.

August 18, 2009