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CPSIA – An Open Letter on the Testing Stay

To all of my loyal readers:

You may not realize it, but we face a serious crisis right now. Last week, the CPSC held a hearing that discussed the possible extension of the testing and certification stay. The Commission is under pressure to ramp up implementation of the awful CPSIA and this therefore puts the testing stay in peril. Chairman Tenenbaum has heard the concerns of regulated businesses that some advance warning is needed, so Rumorville in forecasting a quick consideration of the question – possibly as early as next week. Commissioner Nancy Nord commented on the implications of the stay in her blog last week. At least one Commissioner, Bob Adler, is openly hostile to continuation of the stay. This is a big deal to companies regulated by the CPSIA.

What kind of disaster would the termination of the Stay in February mean to you? Let me count the problems:

  • The “15 Month Rule” was never issued when due on November 14th. The “15 Month Rule” was supposed to address testing frequency, sampling regimes, the need for additional testing, component testing rules, etc. [Component testing rules were cited as critical by Nancy Nord when the original stay was issued on January 30, 2009. How time flies . . . .] There is a workshop to be held on Thursday and Friday this week to solicit feedback from stakeholders. More than 200 people will attend and many more will watch and participate online in the web simulcast. Presumably this feedback needs to be fully digested before the Commission acts on the stay.
  • Comments on the “15 Month Rule” issues are due on January 11. For perspective, the original comments on the penalty factors were due in late December 2008, and a second round of comments were due on October 1. The revised penalty factors have not been released, and we are now within days of a full year since the first comment letters were received. With this as precedent, we are clearly MANY months from a completed “15 Month Rule”. Arguably, without a fully articulated “15 Month Rule”, an active testing requirement will be incomplete and utterly confusing.
  • The CPSC has not issued its phthalate testing standard.
  • The CPSC has not certified ONE phthalates lab yet.
  • The CPSC admits that it has not certified enough labs to handle a full burden of testing for many product classes or safety tests. They have not provided any quantification of this deficit besides acknowledging that for bikes, based on current accredited labs, it would take a full year to complete testing on all bikes on the U.S. market. That’s one round of testing only, btw.
  • The CPSC has not certified labs for ASTM F963 testing yet.
  • The CPSC has not defined “children’s product”, “toy”, “play” or “childcare article” yet, making the application of the rules completely opaque.
  • The CPSC has not leveled the playing field, acknowledging that fixed test costs place a disproportionately high burden on small businesses. This competitive disadvantage has no ready solution under current rules.
  • The CPSC has acknowledged that many companies have not acted to fill market gaps like component testing because the rules are not final (or even drafted in this case).
  • The CPSC is on its third enforcement policy on lead and lead-in-paint. With the enforcement-policy-of-the-week, the agency ensures that companies will have devote considerable resources to relearning the rules that they had previously mastered, leading to confusion and exhaustion. Imposing a further layer of incomplete, vague and unarticulated testing policies and plans will only reinforce chaos as the working standard for the children’s product industry.
  • The rules that the CPSC has implemented are so ornate, confusingly worded, scattered among multiple documents, letters, and even video testimony, that only the most obsessive observers can claim an accurate understanding of every nuance. This group would not even include me, even though I have given up sleeping in favor of the CPSIA.

The Commission’s sense of urgency to get this irritant off their plate is creating rumors that they intend to act as soon as the next business day after the workshop. As outrageous as this might seem, it’s really worse – the workshop is not about the stay. The workshop is about component testing, frequency of testing, sampling schemes, when to require additional testing, etc. The CPSC has not asked for comments about the lifting of the stay but at least one Commissioner has reasoned that if it was a “big deal”, the CPSC might have heard from more than the Handmade Toy Alliance. [Apparently, both Bob Adler and Jay Howell believe that the CPSC has had not heard from anyone other than the HTA on the stay, which is certainly not true.] This kind of thinking is worrisome in the extreme.

If the stay is lifted on two months notice with all these rules open, undrafted or in process, utter chaos will break out, not only between CPSC regulators and their regulated companies and industries, but also between (a) consumer groups, regulators and regulated companies, (b) State AGs and regulated companies, and (c) regulated companies and their dealers/retailers. By lifting the stay under these uncertain conditions, the Commission is risking complete market chaos. While this would rain down misery across all regulated companies and industries, there is cold comfort in knowing that the Commission would eat its own cooking, suffering a devastating drop in reputation for taking such an economically insensitive and irresponsible act. It would also create whole new class of crises for the agency to deal with, rendering the agency crippled with overwork, inefficiencies and wear-and-tear. Not exactly a magic pill for good agency morale. If the Commission chooses to take this step, it will be shooting at the agency’s feet as well as ours.

We need your help to stop this terrible step. First, it is ESSENTIAL that everyone attending the workshop SCREAM BLOODY MURDER on the issue of the stay. If the stay is lifted, you will be held responsible for complying with unwritten rules by your customers, your local newspaper, your State AG and the like. Your arguments with that cast of characters will get even more intense and distracting (if that’s even possible). The upcoming workshop is your unique opportunity to make your voices heard.

Second, you need to let the Commission know directly how you feel. Here are the email addresses of the five Commissioners – send them an email THIS WEEK expressing your deep concern over the possible lifting of the stay. Please feel free to cc. me at rwoldenberg@learningresources.com.

Chairman Inez Tenenbaum itenenbaum@cpsc.gov

Commissioner Bob Adler radler@cpsc.gov

Commissioner Thomas Moore tmoore@cpsc.gov

Commissioner Nancy Nord nnord@cpsc.gov

Commissioner Anne Northup anorthup@cpsc.gov

Make your voices heard – don’t let this issue catch you napping. We all have the power to help ourselves. It’s time to take action on behalf of your company, your customers, your suppliers, your teammates. Please help us by contributing your voice to this critical issue THIS WEEK.

Read more here:
CPSIA – An Open Letter on the Testing Stay

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