Having a small business, I became aware of concerns with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) a couple of months ago, but was sure that the legal legislation would be amended since it was so absurd. I just couldn’t believe that something that would clearly harm so many people financially at a time when the economy is falling apart would be pursued. http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/14/smallbusiness/toy_law_threatens_small_companies.smb/index.htm?postversion=2009011511
But now I’m not so sure. My belief that this would be changed was assumption based on a false notion that those who pass laws in this country actually think about the wider ramifications of what they’re doing. Now I think that those involved are very out of touch with the average American and his needs, and the past two months has shown amazingly little receptivity to those concerns. As time has passed, I’ve learned much more about it, and this has much, much wider ramifications than I initially believed, ramifications that will affect all of us.
The Consumer Product Safety Commision and Congress passed a law that requires all makers of children’s products in the US to have their products tested for lead (that’s the CPSIA). Anyone who continues to sell their products without this testing will be in violation of law and subject to fines and possible jail time. This is a seemingly positive bit of legislation that was initially greeted with enthusiasm and support by those who want to see more quality products in the marketplace. After all, we don’t want toys from China making kids sick. We want good, natural products that will help us keep our kids safe, don’t we?
But this won’t have much of an effect on products coming from China, even though they were the source of the problem that initiated this bill (since due to technicalities they can do third party on-site testing). Huge companies have big enough quantities of each product that they manufacture that the testing costs when spread out become insignificant per product line. Who it will effect will be small businesses and the average consumer. Here’s an overview of what’s happening.
The CPSIA will make it an offense from Feb. 11 and on to sell anything that hasn’t been tested for lead and received certification. This will include toys, clothing, books, baby carriers, bicycles, bedding, cloth diapers (and yes, nursing pillows :)), etc. But this doesn’t mean only things that are manufactured after that date. It means anything being sold after that date, so any company with any kind of inventory for this age range is right now either in the process of liquidating their inventory (and for many small businesses, choosing to go out of business since testing costs are so high as to be unrealistic for most), or trying to quickly get testing and GCC certification (general compliance certification – that’s what I’m in the middle of right now). So at a time when the economy is falling apart and there are huge job losses across the country, thousands of small businesses (mostly home business, mom and pop operations) are being forced to close down – not because there’s any problem or risk with what they sell, but because they can’t afford to deal with the beauracratic testing requirements. That means more people suffering economically, and it means cost increases for all of the other products (which of course will get passed on to the consumer).
But that’s just the very beginning – because this legislation will affect the second hand market as well. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-thrift2-2009jan02,0,2083247.story I’ve been waiting for a few weeks to see how this panned out, and it seems now that thrift stores are going to be exempt. But the wording isn’t clear and there’s still a possibility of fines to those second hand stores that do sell these things. (“However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.” ) Not surprisingly, many of these stores are also liquidating their children’s supplies rather than risk penalties ($100,000 per violation). And not only is it illegal to sell anything not tested, it will be illegal to give it away – that technically means if you pass your baby clothes to a friend when you’re finished or have a yard sale, you’re committing an offense. But I wouldn’t worry about that. I’d be much more concerned about how people who are suffering economically or have a limited budget to work with are going to clothe their children when the options for buying second hand are drastically limited. And now these stores won’t even be allowed to donate the clothes they already have stocked that are untested to the needy.
And that’s not all – it just keeps getting more and more ludicrous. Libraries will be subject to this, too. So all of their books will have to be tested. Or maybe kids won’t be allowed in the libraries? Certainly library used book sales will have to come to an end. http://thephoenix.com/Boston/News/74940-Congress-bans-kids-from-libraries/
What about educational supplies? Yes, this is affected, too. Science kits, sewing materials – anything geared towards kids will need to do this certification process. How much do you think this will affect the availability of what’s accessible to you in the stores? Or even on the internet – since Ebay and Etsy sellers are now going to be subject to the same restrictions as retail establishments? And it goes on and on…..
But there are some who will be benefitting. The big box stores stand to gain, since their small competition is going to be demolished. Retail stores will benefit if parents can’t buy used clothes or toys for their children and have no choice but to buy brand new. And the many who will be hired to legislate and supervise all of this testing at the various levels will benefit. Maybe this is the government’s way to create new jobs?
Watching the government at work isn’t pretty, is it?