|EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2612 - August 19, 2011 - ISSN 1539-5065 2 of 5|
Small craft shops and retailers won an important victory this month, with the overwhelming passage in both chambers of Congress of a bill to provide relief from some of the more onerous safety testing requirements for children's products. President Obama signed the bill to reform the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) into law shortly after it landed on his desk.
The law tasks the Consumer Product Safety Commission with developing a new set of alternative testing framework that would be economically viable for so-called small batch manufacturers. Small-batch manufacturers are defined as those with less than $1 million in annual sales. Additionally, only products produced in quantities of fewer than 7,500 per year would qualify for alternative testing methods under the new law.
The CPSIA reform bill won the strong backing of groups like the Handmade Toy Alliance, which testified in several congressional hearings to make the case that the existing, one-size-fits-all approach to consumer product safety testing imposed an unreasonable, and ultimately unsustainable, burden on its members.
Under the new law, children's products would be eligible for alternative testing methods designed to skirt the costly third-party regime currently in place for testing for lead, as well as other standards regarding an array of safety concerns.
Significantly, the law stipulates that if the CPSC is unable to identify a viable alternative testing measure, it can exempt small-batch manufacturers from the third-party testing requirements.
Some standards, such as the lead paint rule and the standard for metal in children's jewelry, are left unchanged.
"It's not a perfect solution to the many problems of the CPSIA, but it does offer the promise of meaningful relief for small batch manufacturers," the Handmade Toy Alliance said in response to the bill's passage.
The law also gives the CPSC the flexibility to certify products that adhere to certain foreign safety standards, including some in the European Union, paving the way for that merchandise to re-enter the U.S. market.
CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum praised the bill for striking a compromise that upholds many of the steps the commission has taken toward protecting consumers from harmful materials, while implementing a framework to spare businesses from the more odious and expensive testing requirements.
"The bill was crafted in a spirit of bipartisanship and provides relief to certain business concerns, while keeping in place essential safeguards for children that CPSC has established in recent years," Tenenbaum said in a statement.
The law received similar plaudits from Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel with Consumers Union, the nonprofit group that publishes Consumer Reports, who described the bill as a sensible compromise.
The CSPC now begins the process of writing the rules that will flesh out the details of the new safety standards under the law.
About the Author
About the author:
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.
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