EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2630 - September 14, 2011     3 of 4

CPSC to Educate Toy Makers and Crafters ahead of Enforcement

By Kenneth Corbin

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The nation's consumer product watchdog is gearing up for a big awareness campaign designed to help educate toy makers, particularly small businesses and individual craftspeople, about an important new set of safety requirements that take effect at the beginning of next year.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has laid out plans for a three-step education campaign to publicize the new rules that will require manufacturers of children's toys to certify that their products have been tested by an authorized third-party laboratory.

The agency voted unanimously to enact the new rules July 20 to provide for the certification of third-party testing agents to evaluate children's toys for harmful materials or potential dangerous features, such as small parts that can become detached from the toy and injure a child.

The CPSC is set to begin enforcing the new rules for toys manufactured after Dec. 31, 2011.

The rules will direct toy manufacturers to ensure that their products are tested by a lab that has been accredited by the CPSC. Manufacturers will be required to produce written certificates for each toy documenting compliance with the new standards.

"Accrediting laboratories may not sound like much, but putting in place procedures that will require meaningful, independent third-party toy testing is a vital and necessary part of the process of providing parents with much greater peace of mind when standing in the toy store and when watching their children at play," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said of the passage of the rules.

And the commission is hoping that no one will be caught off guard. In the first stage of its awareness campaign, the CPSC is planning an advertising blitz, taking out space in general-interest and trade publications, to be accompanied by a social media campaign. The commission is also promising that its small business ombudsman will publish a "plain English guide" to the new rules.

In the second phase of the campaign, the commission plans to publish a detailed list of frequently asked questions, including specific examples to help stakeholders determine the steps they will need to take to ensure that they are in compliance with the new rules.

Additionally, the commission said that it is considering augmenting the FAQ list, a device it traditionally uses to help demystify new regulations, with online instructional videos and Webinars.

In the third stage, the commission is planning to have staffers fan out to trade shows, conferences and other industry events to deliver presentations about the new rules. This stage comes with the important caveat that the decisions to dispatch CPSC personnel to events will be made "as funding permits," and will begin once all of the educational materials have been developed.

"Given the likely impact on those who manufacture or import toys that are covered by the toy safety standard, we believe that it is important to engage in a strategic outreach and education plan to the business community and other stakeholders," the CPSC said in a notice published last week in the Federal Register.

The safety standard in question, known as ASTM F-963, had been voluntary prior to the enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August 2008. Under that statute, the CPSC was authorized to enforce the standard beginning six months after the bill was signed into law.

With the notice, the commission is asking for input from interested parties about how it should organize its education campaign, soliciting ideas for publications in which to advertise and trade groups and other stakeholders that could help coordinate a communications strategy. The commission said it is specifically interested in publications that cater to small businesses and individuals that might be harder to reach.

So-called "small-batch manufacturers" that have low annual production cycles won some regulatory relief from specific testing requirements with the enactment last month of a reform to the CPSIA, but they can still expect to face new compliance challenges with the rules that will take effect next year.

The CPSC is accepting comments on how to optimize its education campaign through Oct. 21. Visit this page on Regulations.gov and click on the orange "Submit a Comment" button on the top right.

About the Author
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, 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 .


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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