CPSIA: One-Year Stay is Minor Relief, At Most

The Consumer Product Safety Commission late Friday announced a one-year stay of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s enforcement of requirements for testing of products that will be used by children. (News release.) The action, coming in the wake of a full-scale revolt by small manufacturers of toys, garments and other children’s products, provides very little relief.

CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy issued a statement in conjunction with the stay. This excerpt make it clear that everyone’s still on the hook:

The action we are taking today puts in place a limited “time-out” so that the Commission and the Congress can address the issues with the law that have become so painfully apparent. The stay will give the CPSC time to develop and issue rules defining responsibilities of manufacturers, importers, retailers, and testing labs. It will give the Commission time to rule on exemptions andexclusions from the lead provisions and develop and put in place appropriate testing protocols. It will give staff time to develop an approach to component parts testing, given the ambiguity of the statute on this point.

It is important to clearly understand what the stay does and does not do. The stay of enforcement of the testing and certification provisions will give some temporary and limited relief to small manufacturers, home-based businesses and crafters who cannot comply with the law without incurring substantial testing costs. However, the stay does not relieve them of complying with the underlying requirements enacted by Congress and which go into effect on February 10, 2009, dealing with lead, phthalates and a number of other toy standards. Any changes to these requirements will need to be addressed by Congress.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement act also empowered state attorneys general to enforce the CPSIA’s provisions, so an ambitious AG could still wreak havoc by targeting manufacturers of children’s products, or products used by children, or products that may come in contact with children. To which the CPSC says, “The Commission trusts that State Attorneys General will respect the Commission’s judgment that it is necessary to stay certain testing and certification requirements and will focus their own enforcement efforts on other provisions of the law, e.g. the sale of recalled products.”

That’s placing a lot of trust in the restraint of politicians.

Bottom line, the CPSC’s action provides no legal protection for manufacturers of products requiring testing and really just confuses the issue.

Let’s get moving, Congress.

For more, see Walter Olson’s post at Overlawyered.com. He comments:

This is, in general, very good news, but two problems need to be pointed out. One is that the action may be vulnerable to legal challenge as violating the CPSC’s legal obligations to regulate, and in particular to enforce CPSIA’s terms faithfully. As if to confirm that danger, prominent “consumer” groups — that is, the same groups that pushed CPSIA through to enactment and have vocally defended the law ever since — issued a letter this afternoon digging into their position that there’s nothing wrong with the law and that Congress should not revisit it. (Consumers Union, Public Citizen — the latter, it will be recalled, being the group whose David Arkush wrote last month “I haven’t heard a single legitimate concern yet” about the law.)

In other developments, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) announced he will introduce a bill to fix the CPSIA’s excesses. His news release is here.

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  • […] and confetti-throwing have subsided, there will be time to examine the many ways this relief falls short of solving the CPSIA problem, while leaving product makers and retailers exposed in serious legal […]

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