June 17, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, CPSIA Updates, Featured Articles
Morons on parade . . . . Never failing to disappoint, the Tribune (via its South Florida Sun-Sentinel) today published the latest left wing tripe about the CPSIA Amendment (ECADA). In an article entitled ” Pandering politicians threaten to make hay of product safety “, Nicole Brochu unquestioningly falls in line with Henry Waxman and Rachel Weintraub on ECADA and trashes safety legislation she clearly does not understand. I am pretty sure Ms. Brochu is not a regular reader of this blog. She has successfully remained ignorant of many indisputable facts about safety in children’s products, not to mention the detailed nature of the problems caused by CPSIA. That certainly makes it easier to react emotionally to the “threat” posed by ANY effort to change the ill-conceived CPSIA. And that she does . . . . Ms. Brochu starts by confirming her bias against business and ruling out any consideration of opposing viewpoints (possibly involving FACTS): ” I don’t know about you, but when it comes to keeping the nation’s supply of kids’ toys and other consumer products safe, I’m going with the advice of doctors, scientists and watchdogs. I’m not sure we can rely on toymakers and motorcycle distributors to have the public’s collective back on this one . . . . [The] only thing [ECADA] proposes to enhance is special interests’ bottom lines — not the CPSC’s authority, or its protections of the consumers in its care.” Ah, special interests again! She must have been talking to the estimable Jan Schakowsky. As everyone knows, I am a “very cynical . . . special interest”. You should see my lapel pin! Ms. Brochu regurgitates the platitudes and slogans of the shrill groups opposing any change to the law: ECADA and CPSIA are toy bills. CPSIA was passed by an overwhelming majority of both Houses of Congress and was signed by “pro-business Republican President George W. Bush”. As a result of the CPSIA, there has been a “noticeable improvement in the public’s wounded confidence” (presumably in children’s products and the federal government). “[A] bunch of pandering politicians [are trying] to muck it all up for us. Since Republicans took over majority control of the U.S. House last year (and even before), they have set their sights on diminishing the safety act’s laudatory provisions in the name of lifting the burden off small-business owners.” [ Ed. Note : This is a variant of the argument that only Democrats and consumer groups care about kids, certainly not businesses or Republicans.] ECADA is “a hyperventilating overreach that would put the country’s health and safety at risk. And that’s just what an impressive contingent of folks — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Kids In Danger, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the CPSC’s chairman and two of its commissioners — say this measure would do.” ECADA “[waters] down the safety act’s firm hold on lead content in children’s products . . . .” The book industry and motorcycle industry are “special interests” seeking a pass for their products. No matter the merits of their claims, the law’s protections cannot be weakened in any way. [ Ed. Note : This is the "zero sum" argument again - if manufacturers are made better off by ECADA, it follows "logically" that children MUST BE worse off.] In each case, I have already replied to these misstatements and mischaracterizations in this space. Since I seem to repeat myself endlessly, I am going to spare you one more trip around the same block today. You can find the answers in my recent postings on ECADA. The author finishes up with one of the biggest misconceptions promoted by the opponents of ECADA: ” The bill would do away with the requirement that manufacturers test their products before bringing them to market, putting the onus instead on the tax-funded CPSC to conduct extensive, costly analyses to determine if testing is necessary. Taxpaying consumers shouldn’t shoulder the burden, or the cost, of making sure the products they buy are safe. In any reasonable scenario, that responsibility should fall on the businesses — big or small — making money selling their wares to the American public.” This remark reflects a gross misunderstanding of how businesses operate and how the proposed change in law affects businesses regulated under the CPSIA. ECADA does not eliminate the need to test children’s products for compliance with the strictures of the CPSIA. The lead standards are still on the books, the rabid regulators are still breathing down our necks and THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW IF YOU COMPLY WITHOUT PERFORMING PRODUCT TESTS. What ECADA accomplishes, Ms. Brochu, is to stop the government from telling us how to run our businesses. We know better how to comply with these rules than they do, and can save vast sums of money wasted on government-mandated testing overkill. We will STILL HAVE TO TEST. There is no way around it. And if we screw up, we pay. This is not really a change, btw. We have always been subject to American tort law and have always been on the hook for our failures. I wonder if the knuckleheads who believe that ECADA eviscerates the CPSIA understand that the government has no way to force businesses to test. Mandated testing does not mean that every children’s product will be tested, any more than posted speed limits mean that you will never get a speeding ticket. To survey compliance, the CPSC will always have to test products – and cops will always need radar guns. Scurrilous businesses that don’t want to spend the money to comply will lie – and good businesses will spend themselves into bankruptcy paying for endlessly repetitive tests. The mandated testing regime has little to do with these behaviors because this is the realm of compliance . Rules do not eliminate bad behavior as common experience instructs. The drafters of ECADA get this point, and have incorporated the modest concession that the standards are more important to safety than attempting to manage thousands of businesses. Ms. Brochu would know this if she read my blog. I want to draw your attention AGAIN to the important point that Ms. Brochu’s safety neurotics have yet to answer my query – WHERE ARE THE VICTIMS OF LEAD-IN-SUBSTRATE? If we are saving children from a dreaded threat NOW, presumably children were suffering grave consequences in the past. Yet when asked to name these victims and provide case histories and other identifying and validating data, the advocates cannot name even ONE victim – from any country, at any time, using any children’s product by any manufacturer under any living conditions. Zero known victims – but we must bear billions in costs to comply with a neurotics’ legislative and regulatory wet dream. Notably, in May 2010 I published my own analysis of 11 years of CPSC recalls from 1999-2010 and found only three alleged injuries (all from lead-in-paint) and one death (from swallowing a lead bangle from a bracelet). That’s it – and there are no known victims of lead-in-substrate in the CPSC’s publicly-available recall records in that time period to the best of my knowledge. Or at any other time in the history of the world . The absence of lead-in-substrate injuries is stark in comparison to prosaic risks we bear EVERY DAY. Stair falls have killed almost as many people in Japan as fires despite the fact that many structures in Japan are made of wood (1976). In Canada, injuries and fatalities on stairs are at least ten times greater than those from natural disasters (1985). In the UK, it has been estimated that more than 100,000 stair injuries occur annually (1999). Yet the federal government wants us to spend literally BILLIONS OF DOLLARS annually to protect against a health threat not associated with a SINGLE documented injury. We are being governed by idiots. Maybe someday we can expect the media to think before it speaks. Maybe someday the standards for journalism will include knowing what you’re talking about, investigating and challenging preconceived notions and a healthy skepticism for pat answers. Until then, we have the Tribune and Ms. Brochu. VOTE FOR ECADA AND END THE CPSIA CHARADE!
June 9, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, CPSIA Updates, Featured Articles
In today’s Desert Sun newspaper , John Paliwoda, Executive Director of the California Motorcycle Dealers Association, published an Op-Ed entitled “Note to Congress: Kids don’t lick their ATVs”. You’re kidding! A few salient take-aways: a. Although ATVs and dirt bikes are now “banned hazardous materials” under the law because of trace levels of lead in metal parts like engine components, scientists agree that the risk of injury is “remote at best”. Even the CPSC staff acknowledge this (in writing). Mr. Paliwoda notes that “there have been no cases of lead poisoning documented from children riding youth model ATVs”. No one seems to care, however. b. The CPSC acknowledges that children face a ” far graver and more immediate risk ” by being exposed to adult-sized ATVs than exposure to lead in metal components in youth-model ATVs. The very EXISTENCE of youth-model ATVs is the handiwork of the CPSC – so their ban reverses the safety gains earned by the Commission (work that actually saved lives). This ban of youth-model ATVs under the CPSIA is part of a larger political objective to ban ATV use by kids altogether, as publicly admitted by Cindy Pelligrini of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Subterfuge as public policy? Apparently. Still, Mr. Paliwoda observes: “The one thing that the government, ATV manufacturers, dealers and consumer groups all agree on is that the key to reducing injuries and fatalities to children riding ATVs is to keep riders younger than 16 off adult-size ATVs.” Hmmm. Job well done, Congress! c. The manufacturing and sale of youth-model ATVs has been severely curtailed by the law despite the temporary stay protecting manufacturers and retailers. Why? The stay of enforcement “failed because many manufacturers and dealers are not comfortable selling youth model powersports vehicles while the ban is on the books.” And the impact on the industry? Mr. Paliwoda: “[For] motorcycle dealers in California, [the CPSIA] has been devastating.” Sadly, Mr. Paliwoda’s reasoning and documentation will not likely sway any Dems. Why? Aren’t they listening? No. Don’t they care about data? Nope. Don’t they care about the creation of jobs in their districts? Doesn’t seem like it. What motivates them, then? It’s certainly not children’s safety, by all appearances. My best guess is that they want to be reelected as their top priority and feel that taking a reasoned stand to repair an idiotic law ostensibly “protecting” children is too politically dangerous to risk. The public can’t be expected to actually think about the details, after all, and the rabid and equally uncomprehending media will certainly take the other side of any effort to bring relief to this suffocating law. Data be damned. Or, you, your company, your market and your customers be damned. PASS ECADA AND END THE CPSIA CHARADE!
As the House considers how to move a CPSIA Amendment forward, the issue of third party testing looms large.
April 5, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
I have summarized my comments on the pending CPSIA amendment in my two prior blogposts.
April 4, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Continuing with my analysis of the pending draft of the CPSIA Amendment:
March 22, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
On Monday, March 15, the Department of Homeland Security did something we probably will never see from this CPSC:
“[Docket No. DHS–2011–0015]
Reducing Regulatory Burden; Retrospective Review Under Executive
AGENCY: Office of the General Counsel, DHS.
ACTION: Notice and request for comments.
SUMMARY: Pursuant to Executive Order 13563, ‘‘Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,’’ issued by the President on January 18, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (Department or DHS) must develop a preliminary plan to facilitate the review of existing DHS significant regulations through the use of retrospective analyses. The preliminary plan will include criteria for identifying existing DHS significant rules that might be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed, so as to make DHS’s regulatory program more effective or less burdensome in achieving its regulatory objectives. The Department is soliciting views from the public on how best to develop its preliminary plan. The Department is also seeking views from the public on specific existing significant DHS rules that the Department should consider as candidates for modification, streamlining, expansion, or repeal. These efforts will help DHS ensure that its regulations contain necessary, properly tailored, and up-to-date requirements that effectively achieve regulatory objectives without imposing unwarranted costs.” [Emphasis added]
Imagine that, an agency that wants to streamline and to avoid imposing unwarranted costs!
Of course, Homeland Security is not facing anything as dreaded as LEAD – have I mentioned that there is NO safe level of lead? – and can probably cut a few corners without any untoward effects. Homeland Security doesn’t seem too busy, just checking a few boarding passes, looking serious and so on. I guess when you have an unimportant, almost trivial responsibility in the government, you can afford to review your rules for fat, waste and stupidity. But when CHILDREN’S SAFETY is concerned, and bicycle licking is possibly at stake, well then, you can’t take ANY chances.
Damn the cost, man, we have to be SAFE!!!
March 14, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Sean Oberle of the Product Safety Letter noted in an Op-Ed entitled “Andre Maginot and the CPSIA Database” that while the database has the ability to do good, it also presents the risk of causing serious harm. He’s right, of course. He goes on to note that proponents may be held to account if disaster results. We can only hope. . . .
I think this is helpful and appreciate that Sean made this point. I want to highlight one short section in his essay:
“The metaphor also helps to belie the dismissive reassurances of a few (by no means all) proponents. The issue is not that industry is failing to acknowledge the protections Congress and CPSC put in place. Rather, industry is concerned whether the protections are proper and sufficient. The irony is not lost on me that with the CPSIA database, we’re dealing with a product that has a lot of potential to do harm. The problem is that when you produce a potentially dangerous product – be it a database or a toy – there is only so much that you can do to reassure people before putting it ‘out there.’ At some point, people simply are going to have to trust you.”
There are two important issues here. First, Sean mentions “trust” – and seems to imply that we should give the agency a chance to prove itself. Well, they have already had a chance to prove themselves, and used the opportunity to prove that they don’t deserve to be trusted. The risk that we should bear while we wait to see if the CPSC can be “trusted” could literally be fatal to our businesses. Where does it say that markets are to be administered this way? How can this be defended as “sensible” or a worthy risk to take?
The second issue which Sean brushes up against but doesn’t discuss is how the database erodes corporate due process rights so significantly. We have essentially had our rights stripped, arguably illegally and illicitly. The government is now in the business of publishing slander and we have no way to stop it. Trust is impossible when due process rights have been removed. Appeal is pointless (as our company’s recent experience illustrates), but some semblance of process creates the illusion of individual rights. It’s a joke, of course. Maybe we need to call the Small Business Ombudsman. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
At some point, the zealots will push too far. The damage they wrought won’t be fixable – the dead companies won’t rise again. The cost will be borne by our society, but the perpetrators will just move on to another government job . . . .
Read more here:
CPSIA – Sean Oberle Notes the Risk in the Database
March 2, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles, In the News
Senator Jay Rockefeller issued a press release today to slam the Pompeo Amendment de-funding the CPSIA database. Mr. Rockefeller apparently feels that the legitimate concerns of American manufacturers and retailers pale against the need for consumers to make product judgments based on unfiltered hearsay, lies and nonsense:
“’This database will provide important safety information to American consumers,’ Chairman Rockefeller added. ‘A mother will be able to check the CPSC database to see if there are complaints about a crib model. A young couple will be able to see if a certain microwave has a history of safety complaints or if there are complaints about a coffee maker shorting and causing fires. I will fight this ill-informed proposal to undermine such an important consumer protection tool. It’s a bad idea and a bum deal for American consumers.’” [Emphasis added]
Consumers will also be able to decide to stop driving Toyotas because of accusations borne of driver error, or drop DryMax diapers over discredited claims of diaper rash.
True story – last year, stopped at a stop light, my car was gently rear-ended by an elderly lady driving a Toyota. As I approached her car after inspecting the minimal damage, she expressed “shock” at the accident and informed me that it was “sudden acceleration” just like in the newspapers. Who could see such a calamity coming? I noticed a little dog on her lap, jumping up and down, trying to get out of the window to sniff me. Let’s just say that I didn’t immediately side with her “explanation” of the accident. Nice doggy! That incident could have been reported under the current terms of the new database (were it a consumer product). Who would pay the price for that kind of baloney assertion? The manufacturer – with no defenses whatsoever.
Nothing surprises me anymore BUT Senator Rockefeller’s denials fly in the face of House testimony given on February 17th, not to mention the outpouring of testimony, data and legitimate procedural complaints by industry. In the hearing on the 17th, Inez Tenenbaum ADMITTED that the agency will be posting information that may be inaccurate or false. To quote Ms. Tenenbaum, “that’s what the rub is”.
I cannot overstate how frustrating it is (remains) to see Democrats stick to the script notwithstanding data and testimony that directly undercuts their position (and their credibility). Either they think we are morons, or else they must believe the government is something SEPARATE AND ABOVE the people. President Lincoln took a different view, stating in the Gettysburg Address:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It is hard for me to believe Mr. Rockefeller believes what Mr. Lincoln instructed on that day. The testimony on the database is not a farce, and our concerns are legitimate. If the concerns for consumers are actually so urgent, why not hit the “pause button” to fix the issues affecting those of us stubbornly trying to provide jobs in this country? Talk to the Pompeo staff – they want to FIX the database, not kill it. Is it really necessary to trash the economy out of pure stubbornness?
The time to genuflect to the holy CPSIA and its misguided almost-unanimous passage through Congress is OVER. Senator Rockefeller, please pay attention to the legitimate needs of those who provide JOBS to your constituents and de-fund the CPSIA database until it can be fixed. You represent the many millions of people who are still working in this country, too. It’s time to remember EVERYBODY’S interest in this matter, not just the left edge of the left wing.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Senate Dems Try to Line up Against Pompeo Amendment
February 28, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The Washington Post published the latest whitewash on the CPSC public database yesterday entitled “Publicly accessible product safety database hits House roadblock“. In this article, the Post allowed consumer group favorite Rachel Weintraub to publish her own spin of matters: “‘There’s a lot of support for the database, but we don’t know how the dynamic is ultimately going to play out,’ said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for Consumer Federation of America. ‘This is really a last-ditch effort by manufacturers to hold on to this great situation they have right now, where information is not getting out to the public.’” [Emphasis added]
Of course, Rachel was simply borrowing a phrase from last week’s New York Times (“Emboldened by a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, manufacturers of toys and other children’s products are making a last-ditch effort to quash new safety regulations that they say are unfair or too onerous”). [Emphasis added] When you have a great phrase, why not use it over and over?!
What’s the truth? Does it even matter anymore? Jennifer Kerr of the Associated Press questions the purported (asserted) value of the database, noting:
“Anyone can submit a “report of harm” to the SaferProducts.gov database. They aren’t required to have first-hand knowledge of the alleged injury or potential defect that could lead to injury. . . . The U.S. government has a similar auto safety database, also available to consumers online, that describes people’s safety complaints in extraordinary detail. It is the government’s principal early warning system intended to alert federal investigators to signs of looming safety problems. Yet despite efforts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to review consumer complaints before they’re memorialized in the government’s database, an AP review of 750,000 records last year found that the data included complaints about slick pavement during snow, inconsiderate mechanics, paint chips, sloshing gasoline during fill-ups, potholes, dim headlights, bright headlights, inaccurate dashboard clocks and windshield wipers that streak.” [Emphasis added]
This is just what we in the small business community need – a government-sponsored, funded and promoted accumulation of unqualified miscellaneous gripes about our products. Do you think the media will ever take an interest in this stuff? Nah . . . .
And lest we forget, a familiar criticism of the database is that accusations can take a long time to resolve . . . but once posted to the Internet, can never be truly expunged from the permanent record. The year-long DryMax diapers controversy, not to mention the trashing of Toyota braking systems, demonstrate the severe risk U.S. manufacturers and importers face under the database. Imagine the long term damage to those brands if the accusations (subsequently proven false) never died . . . . Notably, Wayne Morris of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers called the new database nothing better than a “blog” because of these design defects.
The Washington Post failed to mention this nuance. Rachel must have forgotten to point it out.
I think it’s also worth considering the gap in how the CPSC describes the purpose and function of the database. Thanks be to Congress, is it clear WHY we have this database? Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel of the CPSC, says it’s a “complaints” database, NOT a “causation” database. She is pinning her interpretation on the disclaimers all over the website that the information on the site has not been proven and may be wrong. In other words, the postings can’t be relied upon. They are only “complaints” under this view. Ms. Falvey used this reasoning to dismiss complaints about process raised by pesky last-ditch manufacturers at last week’s ICPHSO.
Of course, if the postings are really just “complaints”, why did the CPSC name the site “SaferProducts.gov”? Doesn’t sound like a complaint website, does it? A long time ago, I complained about the website name to the person who claims to have coined it. I did not win that one, obviously. The URL includes the media-friendly term “safer” and makes an inescapble connection to Ms. Tenenbaum’s famous remark on website trustworthiness: “Well, to all of you here today, I say don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, except what you read on Web sites that end in dot gov.”
I may not be the only one who thinks this, despite the website’s disclaimers.
This impression is reinforced by Chairman Tenenbaum’s own description of the ideal workings of the database in her keynote speech at last week’s ICPHSO: “I also envision the site empowering consumers to make independent decisions that further their own safety and the safety of their family. If a mom uses the search function on the site, sees a series of reports of harm about a product she bought for her child, and decides to take the product away from her child, while behind the scenes we are working to finalize a recall—that is a good thing in my opinion.“
That sounds like a “causation” database, doesn’t it? The implication is that the mom can rely on the information (it must be true) and besides, doesn’t an injury “incident” mean that a recall is coming soon? My immediate concern is that Ms. Tenenbaum is right – unqualified and unverified complaints on SaferProducts.gov WILL induce consumers to take our products away from children – whether or not a recall is forthcoming. We also know that Ms. Falvey is right – no one knows if the complaints are true – but who will reimburse our losses when the government convinces our customers that the safest course of action is to stop using our product pending a decision that may never be forthcoming . . . because nothing’s wrong.
The Chairman is encouraging consumers to rely on this information – to draw conclusions on the likelihood of future injury. This is even more alarming, given that Ms. Tenenbaum said in Congressional testimony last week that the agency will likely post unverified or inaccurate information to the database. She knows that this information will be faulty. As she said in testimony, “that’s what the rub is”.
That’s the rub, indeed.
I am tired of the rub, indeed.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Jockeying for Position over the Database
February 25, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
This panel discusses technical legal issues. You need to hire a lawyer to explore these issues. This blog is not a substitute for qualified legal representation. As previously noted, I am working off my notes, too. Please proceed with due and appropriate caution.
- Eric Stone, K&L Gates LLP
- Georgia Ravitz, Arent Fox LLC
- David Baker, Law Offices of David Baker LLC
Eric Stone: Section 15(a) of CPSA limits the agency’s authority to pursue only items presenting a substantial risk of injury or death. The agency has the right to sue for the same thing under Section 15(c) (mandatory recalls, very rare).
The prior law allowed manufacturers to elect the form of recall program. The CPSIA changed that, and gives the CPSC the authority to make those choices now.
Under Section 15(j), the agency can make a “substantial product hazard” findings across an entire product category, essentially by way of rulemaking. There are certain prerequisites to taking this action. The poster child for this is drawstrings in hoodies.
New violations of law INCLUDES reselling recalled items EVEN IF it was wholly voluntary or initiated entirely by the company without CPSC judgment. That recall is also enforceable in 51 jurisdictions. [Something to think about before you climb on the Fast Track Recall freight train . . . .] False statements or “attempting to mislead” the CPSC has dramatic implications under the new law. Don’t go there . . . .
New penalty factors include a failure of the violator to respond “in a timely or complete fashion to the CPSC’s requests for information and immediate action”. Hmmm. Felony penalties now include asset forfeiture. Yep, that baby’s raising its head again. In theory, the government can take your assets which it believes you have gotten through ill-gotten gains, like your house, your business, your buildings or plant. Hmmm. Love that CPSIA . . . .
- “Substantial Product Hazard” – no definition in the statute or in the legislative history. CPSC and the courts (Mirama Enterprises case) have interpreted it. Factors include death, grievous bodily injury (mutilation, dismemberment, severe burns, injuries likely to require extensive hospitalization). He asserts that MANY of the recalls initiated last year do NOT meet this standard. [RW: Where have I heard that before???] More than 1/3 of recalls do not involve injury AT ALL and many of the others fall far short of “grievous bodily injuries”. DB: Should the CPSC be taking these cases? Should they simply say thanks for the report but no action is required?
- Fast Track versus Slow Track – Express lane to a press release. No “finding” of a defect, possibly helpful in a product liability case. Fast Track cases aren’t always so “fast”. Are there cases in FT that because they have no injuries shouldn’t be there? Is there still a slow track?
- Penalty phase – “NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED.” Every recall files is reviewed by the General Counsel’s office for late reporting, including those without injuries. There are MANY civil penalty cases being prosecuted out there now. [This could be you, baby.] Is the CPSC going after its own constituency? There is a very accomplished ex-U.S. Attorney now on staff at the CPSC (I think he is referring to Mary Murphy).
Last to present is Georgia Ravitz on Section 6(b) (unilateral press releases by the CPSC and their coercive power). Information that manufacturers submit to the CPSC are protected from disclosure to the public. Section 6(b) is the section governing procedures for releasing such information. [This is why Sectionn 6(b) is continually under attack by consumer groups. Their need for information trumps the interest of manufacturers in this confidentiality pledge. . . or at least so they say.]
CPSIA amendments to Section 6(b) gives the agency the right to issue unilateral press releases. The CPSC must “find” that the situation is so urgent that public interest in immediate release of information about a product hazard over the time permitted for review under Section 6(b).
Gives examples of such unilateral releases. The first one related to Simplicity bassinets. [They were already bankrupt and their assets had been auctioned off.] Other examples include the Witco “Recall to Repair” stadium light poles. GR notes that there is some concern that this release evidenced the CPSC acting in a rushed manner.
GR wondered aloud whether the right to preemptively issue press releases is being used “appropriately”. [Georgia is very polite.] She quotes from the legislative record to note that Congress wanted to give the CPSC the ability to inform the public about “hazardous products”. In other words, there must be certainty that the product is actually hazardous. She quoted from a speech from Chairman Tenenbaum where she indicated that the agency will use its powers to get its way, and then quoted from my December 2010 Senate testimony on coercive incidents at the agency. . . .
GR says that if the new powers under 6(b) are being used to coerce agreement, then the provision is being misused or being used in a way not intended by Congress. [I agree.] Coercion stifles meaningful dialogue. She thinks this provision should be used as a last resort and only use when there is no responsible party left (bankruptcy) or when the violator is clearly abusing the process through foot dragging.
GR calls for a return to “the way it used to be”, namely a more open and less coercive deliberation at the agency over disputes. David Baker indicates that he has NEVER overturned a Preliminary Determination letter. [CPSC as judge and jury. That's a tough combo to overcome.]
Eric Stone: How do you overcome the impression that a company is “evil”? Baker – meetings at the agency are much rarer today, most communciations by phone call or email. Leads to more disagreements and makes disputes harder to resolve. Speed leads to this manner of communication. GR: My experience is that expressing a cooperative attitude with CPSC compliance officers will typically be reciprocated.
Gotta go catch my plane . . . .
Read more here:
CPSIA – ICPHSO Update on Recall Law and Procedures