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
November 19, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
In response to my last blogpost, a little bird contacted me with some thoughts about the public database that consumer advocates and their leftist political allies are cramming down our throats. Apparently, there’s a big gulf between what the Commissioners are saying publicly and what they are saying privately. Take it for what it’s worth.
While you might not agree with the POV purportedly adopted by the Dems below, it certainly portrays them as rational. I think that’s right – they know what they’re doing and are doing it by choice, rather than by coercion. The fact that their actions will be harmful to the regulated community is not lost on them, but we’re just not their priority. THAT’S the real problem here.
Here’s a few tweets for you:
a. While the Dems “support” the database, they are privately acknowledging that it is a colossal waste of time and staff resources. They do NOT believe the database will be full of useful information to anyone. Why should you believe this? According to a reliable little bird on my window sill, the CPSC has not hired even ONE person to process all the information that will be posted in the database. The reason – the leaders don’t care if the data is correct or not. The phrase “post it and forget it” is their agenda.
Did you catch that? POST IT AND FORGET IT.
I believe I recall Rachel Weintraub touting the credibility and accuracy of this data. Hmmm. My so-and-so detector is going off . . . .
b. The driving plan of the Dems is to spend as little as possible on the database. They consider it a diversion of their scarce staff resources. They believe the database will do nothing – or almost nothing – to improve safety so why put money into it?
But they will vote for it – that’s the price of their political patrons – and I guess the impact of this useless database on your business and your willingness to engage in business activities is none of their concern. So they’ll implement it and fill it with garbage. Who cares . . . .
c. The speeches touting the database are intended to please the consumer groups and the political patrons of the Dems running the shop.
d. There is a recognition that allowing the database to swallow up resources at the agency will interfere with the real work of the agency. The Dems actually want to keep people safe so they are going to spend the bare minimum on the database.
The agency doing the bare minimum on the database should be the most frightening thing you have ever read about the database. And it’s true.
You’re not meant to know any of this. This freedom of speech thing is a real pain in the neck for our overlords.
It’s time to get REALLY scared about the database.
Read more here:
CPSIA – The Scoop on the CPSC Database
March 15, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The proposed Waxman Amendment adds a new term to our CPSIA lexicon: “Low Volume Manufacturers” (LVMs). This term is introduced in the ironically-named Section 4: “RELIEF FOR SMALL MANUFACTURERS AND OTHER BUSINESSES”.
How small is “small”? The definition of a LVM is a manufacturer that
“(A) manufactured or imported no more than 2,000 units of all products manufactured by the manufacturer during the most recent calendar year; and (B) had gross receipts totaling not more than $200,000 during such year.”
To clarify, the definition intones:
“the products and gross receipts of a manufacturer shall be considered to include all products and gross receipts of each entity that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with such manufacturer.“
Yep, THAT’S small alright. In other words, if you made or imported 2000+ units of anything regardless of value (all products added together) OR had gross receipts of $200,001 last year, you get nothing here. So, if you sold 3,000 Popsicle sticks for $50, you are out. If you sold 201 cabinets for $1,000 each, you are out. Only the true small fry are included here. Happy?
Hey, isn’t there some sort of federal definition of a “Small Business”? Yessir, the SBA publishes size standards to define Small Business. These federal standards are found in myriad federal legislation (shocking, right?). They are widely used – so why not include them here? That question was posed directly to the Dems – especially since earlier drafts of this amendment featured a higher dollar limit (also inadequate). Why did the Dems tighten the standard so much? Why not incorporate the SBA standards, like every other federal agency?
The best explanation I can give is that the Dems don’t really have any interest in providing relief to small businesses. They also may want to appear to give relief, principally to fool members of Congress who have expressed concern for the fate of crafters under the CPSIA.
Do you think I’m being too cynical? Let’s not forget the words of Senator Durbin’s associate a year ago: “I think you are right that the CPSIA imposes costs on businesses, and because of economies of scale it’s the smaller businesses that will feel these costs more acutely. This is part of a larger calculation that it’s worth the costs to shift from the old system of post-market correction (once a dangerous product is out in the market and leads to sick kids, recalls, lawsuits, etc.) to a new system of pre-market testing and certification (instead of just assuming products are safe and paying the price for false assumptions).“
She said it – small business problems induced by the CPSIA were part of a “larger calculation”. With this amendment, the Dems again test our gullibility.
The provisions relating to LVMs provide the following “relief”:
a. This provision is designed to provide modified requirements for LVMs under Section 14(d) of the CPSA, in other words, the long-delayed and never drafted “15 Month Rule”. For those of you scoring at home, the “15 Month Rule” is now four months late – call it the “19 Month (and counting) Rule”.
b. The “relief” that the CPSC can offer LVMs is “alternative testing requirements” that “provide for reasonable testing methodologies to assure certification based on compliance with the relevant consumer product safety standards”. The alternative methods must ASSURE COMPLIANCE. Can you picture what such “assured compliance” might look like? If these words have their normal English language meaning, the “relief” should be nil if compliance must be assured.
c. The CPSC has the right to implement such alternative testing requirements for LVMs on a product, product class or even for a specific safety standard or part of a standard.
d. NO relief is allowed for lead-in-paint, cribs, pacifiers, small parts, children’s metal jewelry, baby bouncers, walkers and jumpers and durable infant or toddler products (as defined somewhere). All of you LVMs, make a note!
Have you ever heard the expression “trap for the unwary”?
e. This provision also calls for the creation of an “Office for Business Education, Outreach, and Advocacy”. Since I called for such education resources in my first speech at the CPSC back in November 2008, I shouldn’t make fun of this. I just like the legislative goal of this organization: “assist the Commission in informing and educating manufacturers and retailers about requirements under this Act or any other Act enforced by the Commission”. This is much needed. Of course, given that you must master literally thousands of pages of gobbledygook to fully understand the CPSIA as implemented, I would DEFINITELY not want this job. If anyone calls about this opening, tell them I am at the dentist.
f. The provision adds an idyllic sounding provision (Section 4) to the CPSIA which states the pleasant intention to “cooperate” with LVMs “in enforcing the lead limits and third-party testing requirements”. Of course, all cooperation must be “consistent with [he] goals of statute”. In other words, you must be able to prove you comply. There are soothing words about assessing the practicability of tracking labels for these micro-businesses. [Remember that "practicable" incorporates concepts of economics .]
Shame that you and I won’t be eligible for tracking labels relief, too . . . .
This charade purports to provide relief to small businesses but in fact, will benefit virtually no one. Even the Handmade Toy Alliance, a CPSIA advocacy group created by crafters, has few members that would benefit. Notably, there are many more small businesses affected by this law beyond the HTA, so the failure to impact HTA members is just an indicator of how lame the proposed relief actually is.
The SBA sets a high bar in its definition of small business for several reasons (as high as 500 employees or $500 million in revenue). Among them is a fear that legal benefits for small businesses may be unfairly distributed if the definition is too narrow. Many small businesses could miss out on needed protections. Furthermore, the complexity of the U.S. economy makes it difficult to describe a small business. The high bar in the SBA definition leaves room for small businesses in every industry from airplanes to pencils to baby clothing.
The SBA certainly doesn’t want to disincentivize growth or prosperity among small businesses. They recognize that the small business community is a huge jobs creator, so maintaining its financial health is a public policy imperative. The SBA wouldn’t want small businesses to lose special legal benefits because of an immaterial event, like a small incremental sale. So a law that TAKES EVERYTHING AWAY when you sell one more unit of ANYTHING or take in one incremental revenue dollar (all at a very low level of sales that would not coincide with a fundamental change in the nature of your business) would never fly. Never fly with the SBA, that is. Mr. Waxman apparently thinks this is fine – but actually, it’s UN-AMERICAN. Our laws are supposed to encourage us to grow. At least they used to.
If there is one basic reason to be critical of this provision, it’s the very conceit of granting relief by business size. This misses the point of SAFETY entirely. Size of business only became an issue under the CPSIA because the law is too broad. Let’s not forget that the prior law had standards for products, not for companies by size. Why do we need size exceptions now?
Think about it – if your child is harmed by a product, will it matter how much revenue the manufacturer earned in the previous year? Do you think the CPSC wants to modify “safety rules” for little businesses only to find out that one of these businesses hurt your kid? Uh, no. So why take this legislative approach? It’s simple -the Dems have constrained the way we can fix the law. They have fixed, absolutely FIXED, the definition of “safety”. The original standards and the original age limits MAY NOT BE REVISITED. These rules are too broad and invite many negative consequences – but since the Dems will not agree to modify them, we must apparently devise ever more complex rules to circumvent (or apparently circumvent) the problems they cause. In this case, the Dems offer relief for tiny companies. Those of us who have enjoyed enough success to hire a few employees and stop working out of our bedrooms are ineligible for this “relief” although our problems are just as troubling.
I do not accept that there is no solution here, however any durable solution requires that the definition of safety be modified to something sensible. The Dems won’t allow it. This is their “legacy” and they are bound and determined to ensure that it survives, ridiculous or not.
That’s your small business relief. Enjoy!
I intend to publish one more post analyzing the rest of the Waxman Amendment. It will cover an exception to the phthalates ban for inaccessible components. It will also document the sneakiness of the remaining language in the amendment. You aren’t meant to understand it – but I will do my best to shed some light.
Sorry, Henry! Let the sun shine in.
Read more here:
CPSIA – "Low Volume Manufacturers" under Waxman Amendment
January 18, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The CPSC Commission issued its January 15 Congressional report on recommended changes to the CPSIA last Friday. As promised by Inez Tenenbaum, the Commissioners were afforded the opportunity to present individual statements to accompany the Commission report. Four of the Commissioners (Tenenbaum, Adler, Nord and Northup) chose to present their own statements. Adler also promised a supplemental statement on the subject of lead, which has not been released yet to my knowledge.
The Report and the accompanying statements make interesting reading. I do not propose to summarize the documents here, but have set out a few thoughts:
a. The Commission’s Consensus is Important. The Commissioners made a big effort to speak with one voice in the report. While they certainly did not agree on everything, their effort to achieve bipartisanship agreement in the report sends a good message. The Commission needs to work harder to find this middle ground more consistently and less fractiously. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for turning safety into a game of political football. If the Commission can work better together, confidence in their administration will grow and extremes will be avoided.
The prohibition against full Commission meetings in private (the Sunshine Act) is a hidden factor in the report. Since the Commission ill-advisedly voted down a public discussion of the report, the Commissioners were prevented from meeting in groups of three, four or five. When you read this report, imagine how it might have read if the five Commissioners were allowed to sit in a room and duke it out. It might have been a better document, more complete and more prescriptive.
b. Where’s the Functional Purpose Exception??? The report is as interesting for what it DOESN’T say as for what it does say. Most importantly, the functional purpose exemption is GONE. Rumorville has it that the functional purpose exception became more and more ornate and complex as the Commissioners struggled to write a recommendation until even its most ardent supporters had to concede that it wasn’t going to work. This was set up to be Waxman’s excuse to do nothing or nearly nothing. It’s not there anymore.
Too bad for Henry, huh?
c. The Commissioners’ Statements Reveal that Common Sense is Divided on Party Lines. The Commissioners’ statements reveal a lack of communication within the Commission. I know they were talking but it appears that some messages weren’t being heard. The statements of the two Democrats (Moore apparently did not prepare a statement) were straight out of Central Casting. Disappointingly, Ms. Tenenbaum chose to repeat a fairy tale about the law’s origins:
“In response to the flood of dangerous imported products, which were involved in tragic fatalities, poisonings and injuries involving children, Congress closely examined the needs of the CPSC and the statutory changes necessary to enhance the regulatory safety net maintained by the agency. Congress spent considerable time reviewing these needs and continually consulted with the agency’s leaders, staff, consumer groups, and the regulated community in order to carefully craft the proper legislation to achieve this end. Seeing a clear need to reauthorize and reinvigorate CPSC with new energy and purpose, Congress passed a sweeping law.” [Emphasis added]
The re-characterization of what was essentially an anger-fueled legislative mania into some sort of group hug is apparently the Democrats’ effort to justify a passive or inert approach to fixing the law. In addition, both Tenenbaum and Adler repeated the misleading togline about the dangers of lead, although I don’t think that’s news anymore. It’s also not really relevant to discussing the issues under the law – and their persistent refusal to acknowledge this is disappointing.
The Republicans (Nord and Northup) delivered rational and balanced statements that calmly and appropriately diagnosed the issues with the law. They are cognizant of the excesses of the law, the dramatic impact on both the regulated community and the hobbled agency itself. The Reps make no effort to prop up the CPSIA – you know, the law passed by REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS ALIKE. There’s no pride of authorship by the Reps – to their credit, these Commissioners seem to be trying to restore a rational system of law and regulation designed to provide appropriate levels of safety at an affordable cost.
I am tired of the Dems on the Commission simply being good Dem soldiers rather than committed stewards of safety. The ANGER expressed in Massachusetts today is a strong message to the Dems – America is sick and tired of government aggressively inserting itself into every aspect of our lives, including by way of the CPSIA and its precautionary principle. See tonight’s Wall Street Journal for more details. It will be interesting to see if Massachusetts impacts the CPSIA amendment process.
d. Does it Matter What’s Safe Anymore? I am struck again by the absurdity of the debate over lead. As I see it, the debate is over which incidents of lead that are illegal should be permitted. This is different from defining what constitutes safe lead. This used to be a simple decision. Now the premise is that there is NO safe level of lead. Is that really TRUE?
Think of ALL cases where lead is found in children’s products. Now separate them into two piles, one that is labeled “safe” and one that is labeled “not safe”. How do these piles compare to the piles made by the CPSIA, FHSA and CPSA? Well, that question never comes up in the debate. The big question is about compliance with law, not safety.
This is not a rational system for administering risk. First of all, if lead were so deadly that it needed to be eliminated in all cases in all children’s products, then presumably we would be even MORE motivated to remove it from our food, water and air (not to mention dirt). After all, we consume food etc. and the lead in the food gets into our bloodstreams. But this isn’t an issue today because the CPSIA didn’t make it illegal – and apparently the CPSC does not feel lead is dangerous in food, water or air (or else it would have acted on the threat under the FHSA). It gets worse – consider that lead paint is illegal on children’s products but not on cars. If lead is so dangerous and mere contact with lead-in-substrate is so dangerous that it is utterly intolerable in a modern, sophisticated society likes ours, then why does the CPSC permit kids to touch or even ride in cars? After all, the zipper pull on a kid’s golf bag is illegal if it has a dot of lead paint on it. But a whole car dripping with lead paint, that’s fine.
The answer – it doesn’t matter what’s safe when it comes to lead, it only matters what’s legal. The Dems prefer to portray what’s illegal as unsafe, and imply that what’s legal is safe. [Call this the All-Knowing Congress argument.] It’s hard to take this seriously. It’s time for them to drop the precautionary principle pretense and start being accountable for the rationality of their regulatory positions. If lead is a crisis as they say, then please ban everything with lead in it, including our entire food chain. I am ready to be safe, finally.
e. What Has Been Accomplished in the Last 18 Months??? Does it bother you as much as me that so little has been accomplished by the last 18 months of chaos? The many steps and achievements documented in the report and statements might make a bureaucrat blush with pride but how have injury statistics changed? [Recall statistics are a poor measure of the effectiveness of safety rules.] How much did we pay as a society for these extremely meager achievements? If you add in the cost to our society of a crippled safety agency, the price we paid is staggering. The waste is sickening. It’s not possible for me to read the recounting without a sense of loss.
f. Does Anyone Else Want An Exemption? Umm, Yeah! It’s important to note that the low number of exemption requests does not reflect a lack of interest in exemptions. Exemption requests are very expensive to prepare and are complex. In many cases, the exemption request will obviously be rejected or is too broad to state in any compelling way. For instance, educational products span so many categories that it is impossible to state a coherent exemption request. More importantly, the real inhibition to filing is a fear of losing the request. For many companies, it just doesn’t pay to ask for permission – they prefer to beg for forgiveness if a problem ever arises.
Anne Northup correctly notes in her statement that it is bad law to require that regulated companies line up for exemptions. She is not arguing on behalf of the companies – she focuses on the huge burden these requests place on the CPSC and the Commission. She is TOTALLY correct. The idea that we should have a safety system based on exceptions would only appeal to the IRS. Somebody needs to listen to Northup on this point.
g. The Report Whitewashes Ineffective Help for Resale Shops. It is a sad joke to assert that coaching resale shops with the CPSC’s guidance document and a few workshops is somehow a solution to the massive problem caused by the CPSIA. For one thing, it is quite clear that this message has not reached its audience. The CPSC’s approach is inherently inefficient and unlikely to bring relief to many affected stores. A better law is the necessary solution. Second, it is apparent that the CPSC’s efforts did not relieve anxiety – the stores are still dropping children’s items. This lack of accountability begins to look cynical when you consider that only last week, Scott Wolfson was warning people not to sell cheap jewelry on auction sites or in resale shops. Hmmm, that sounds very reassuring, doesn’t it? Problem solved!
If the Commission truly cares about resale shops, then a more effective approach (including a communication strategy) needs to be implemented.
With the issuance of the report and statements, the shuttlecock has been batted back to Congress. The next step is to work on a long-needed amendment of this awful law. Stay tuned.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Commission Report to Congress on CPSIA Changes
September 22, 2009 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
I was contacted today by an ex-CPSC’r who read my blog on Section 102(d)(2)(B) and wanted to point out that sometimes people lie and cheat when it comes to disclosure to the agency. So the question is: if people might pull the “switcheroo” or otherwise commit intentional fraud, wouldn’t the right solution be to make everyone test under much more controlled and regulated circumstances? This might make things much harder for cheaters. Isn’t that good? My response is NO . First of all, I hope it is no surprise to you or anyone that some people cheat. I believe this was discussed in the Bible and frequently thereafter. This MIGHT be the reason we have a criminal code and JAILS. Some people are also incompetent. They don’t cheat, they just fail repeatedly but goodnaturedly. The rest of us work hard and get our jobs done. As for me, although some people might cheat, I do NOT. If all the honest people must pay a high certain price in order to squeeze out the bad guys, we will all be crushed. This is akin to being treated like a murderer – just because there have been murders in your town. The CPSIA punishes the many for the sins of the few. The dispiriting idea underlying the lunkheaded Section 102(d)(2)(B) is that no one can be trusted, and that unless the government gets involved in regulating the minutia of safety testing, we cannot be sure that everything will be okay. [Did you ever think about why the CPSC must now accredit testing labs? We never needed it before - what precipitated the change? I am not aware of a single recall that was blamed on an incompetent or fraudulent lab. This is all the more troubling when you consider how much money has been wasted on this pointless and growing devotion of CPSC resources.] The economics of over-regulation are poor. Investment incentive is crushed by excessive regulatory costs as a profit motivation is rendered moot. In this case, we are CERTAIN to bear excessive costs for needless and pointless testing, all because a panicked Congress’ felt an urgent need to “do something” about recalls. What costs will be eliminated as a result? If our company has to pay 2-5% of our revenue for compliance with this new law (my estimate), can we save that much or more in avoided costs? Not based on our 25-year track record (recalled 130 pieces out of a billion in 25 years, or 0.000013% per annum). We now must trade an annual cost increase of 2-5% for an annual savings of 0.000013%. What about the costs to society? Well, in our case, all 130 pieces were recovered and there were no known injuries. Cost to society: zero. This is not so crazy, as less than 0.01% of all children’s products are ever recalled. Consider the famous lead-in-paint recalls of 2007-8: 125 recalls, no deaths and only one claimed injury (from a crib). So, who will pay for this folly? You. Some myths need to be dispelled: a. America pays the costs of the CPSIA. This is simple economics. The law of land regulates us a community. We pay for all recalls and we incur the costs of all injuries. Although costs may be shifted (reallocated) among us by law (some winners, some losers), ideal laws lower our net societal costs by incentivizing the most efficient allocation of resources. Thus, a law might assign one party to bear a responsibility because they can manage it at the lowest overall cost, thus avoiding significant and greater costs by a less efficient party. Common examples of this are torts (the law places strict burden for product liability on manufacturers) and railroad crossings (railroads must pay for safety of the crossings). Manufacturers and railroads are in the best position to protect against safety dangers, as opposed to consumers acting individually. If manufacturers and railroads weren’t allocated this responsibility, consumers would bear too much cost (inefficiently) in the form of injuries or losses. This is nothing more than a law-and-economics explanation of how legal systems work. See “The Problem of Social Cost” by Ronald Coase (Coase received the Nobel Prize for this theory). In the bargaining world hypothesized by Mr. Coase, costs would be borne by the party best able to bear them efficienlty, which might be manufacturers . . . or might be consumers. [It also is clear that no matter what happens to the CPSIA (be still, my heart!), manufacturers will still have a strong incentive (by law) to make their products as safe as possible. Tort law provides this economic incentive quite well.] b. NOT all recalled items are “deadly”. Some recalls have the potential to kill, but most do not. Of the simple “risk of injury” recalls, many are technical violations (immaterial threats of injury), theoretical risks, or worst of all, self-imposed (sometimes companies insist on recalls over the objection of the CPSC). It is plainly WRONG to contend that recalled items are “deadly” (Ahem, Ms. Tenenbaum). c. We cannot simply “raise” our prices to cover the new costs. Products have a strong “perceived value” which cannot be overcome with marketing. Some items are quite price sensitive. How much would you pay for your Starbucks latte? If the price went over $5, would you change coffee shops? $6? $8? No one is indifferent to price. How much would you pay for napkins at McDonalds, given that you probably think you are entitled to free napkins? Most people would cut their napkin use by 90%+ if the cost was as little as 1 cent each. This reasoning applies to ALL products and ALL services, no exceptions (even medical care). In the case of toys, many toys are commodities and have essentially a known “market value”. If you price them too high, you will lose business. “Perceived value” is set or heavily influenced by the mass market, precisely the part of the children’s market most able to absorb new CPSIA costs. Those of us in the specialty markets are toast as a consequence. d. The right way to measure recall effectiveness is in their economics. As noted above, we Americans will bear the net cost of this law. Is it worth it? We know that some items subject to recall present “unacceptable” risks of injury and others do not. It has always been the common sense practice of the CPSC (until recently) to exercise judgment when imposing a recall. They used to recognize that recalls come at a cost. There are many factors to assess in determining that a recall is merited. Having never been a CPSC manager or a legislator (heaven forbid!), please take my amateur’s list of factors with a grain of salt: (i) nature and severity of the risk of injury, (ii) number of units in circulation, (iii) age of the child subject to the risk, (iv) public policy [Is there a reason to justify strict liability? This would presumably be infrequent.] and (v) durability and value of the recalled item. Common sense dictates that you must weigh the benefits of a recall against the economic damage wrought by the recall. Since we finance both sides of the ledger, we Americans have an incentive to behave rationally and take the lowest cost route. [ The Coase Theorem again.] If you think about the case where one “dangerous” children’s product (say, a pair of shoes) is in circulation somewhere in the United States, it probably wouldn’t be worth the significant expense of recovering that special pair of shoes unless we knew that one or more lives were DEFINITELY at risk, a very high cost. [Exploding shoes, perhaps.] Thus, if some situations present low grade risk of injury and a high expense for a recall, it may sense to NOT expend the money on a recall, but perhaps to engage in other activities to keep costs down (like education or a “running” change in product design). Let’s also not forget that manufacturers that go through a CPSC process incur meaningful “transaction” costs even if there is NO recall (i.e., legal expenses, possible inventory loss, embarrassment, etc.). Thus, even without penalties, there is an incentive to do better next time – a recall is not needed to get most companies to straighten up. Given my estimate that we will expend 2-5% of revenues to comply with this awful law, could the economics ever justify that expense to save “injuries”? You already know that we incur an anticipated annual expense for recalls of 0.000013% of revenue, all to avoid a 25-year injury rate of zero. This annual “CPSIA tax” of 2-5% is entirely “inefficient” in a Coase sense, as the imposition (and allocation) of costs is irrational. This completely explains why the law is misconceived. Since the CPSC is not allowed to exercise judgment under the CPSIA, and since economics are not allowed to be considered either, it is by definition an irrational and shamefully inefficient law. Mr. Coase would be outraged. I happen to be outraged, too. Cheaters frustrate me but that’s no justification for treating everyone like they are cheaters. It’s time to rewrite the law to permit the cheaters to be treated like cheaters, and leave the rest of us ALONE.
See the original post here:
CPSIA – How Much Should We Pay to Prevent "Cheating"?
August 18, 2009 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
I was walking down the street this weekend and stumbled across a jeweler advertising Palladium.