Welcome aboard, Chairman Tenenbaum. You just missed yet another strange act of regulatory confusion that your colleagues at the Consumer Product Safety Commission were forced into making because of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).
The CPSC has issued a two-year stay of enforcement for youth bicycles from the law’s lowered standards for lead content. The action means the CPSC will not go after manufacturers and retailers for failing to meet the new standards, but it does not free the companies from legal liability.
It’s an unhappy medium. But then, enforcement of the law would have endangered children.
Commissioner Nancy Nord issued a statement upon the issuance of a stay. Excerpt:
From the standpoint of the consumer, enforcement of the law as written by the Congress would limit the availability and increase the costs of a product that is almost synonymous with childhood. But most importantly, because lead adds to the strength of the metal used and has other useful attributes, enforcement of the law could adversely impact the safety of children’s bicycles, leading to more deaths and injuries. A stay of enforcement is our only option to protect children.
While the stay of enforcement will allow children’s bicycles to continue to be sold over the next two years, the stay also contemplates that manufacturers develop plans to reengineer their products to remove the lead from the metal used in children’s bicycles. In other words, we are requiring that manufacturers use scarce resources in challenging economic times to attempt to address a risk that children just do not encounter.
It is very troubling that the commission has had to resort to using stays of enforcement to avoid the unexpected, and, in some cases, the dangerous consequences that would result from enforcement of the CPSIA. Such a result does not increase consumer confidence and creates uncertainty in the marketplace. There are those who would add that, at some point, regular use of stays opens the agency up to legal challenge for not enforcing the law.
Commissioner Moore also issued a statement expressing concern about the structural integrity of bicycles and supporting the two-year state.
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