CPSIA Rant: Blame Special Interest Groups

On January 7, 2009, the Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Kids in Danger, National Research Center for Women & Families, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) sent a letter full of assertions and half-truths to the Honorable Nancy Nord, Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission with what can only be interpreted as having the intended effect of marginalizing the effect of this law on our businesses. Frankly, since these special interest groups are the ones who are responsible for passing this law, I think it’s time we start writing to them rather than Congress, particularly since they are now pushing back insisting on full implementation of the law as it stands. Follows is a rough draft of a message I’d like to send them in response to “the Nord letter“.
From: Kathleen Fasanella, Fashion-Incubator.com & NationalBankruptcyDay.com

Contrary to oft-repeated assertions in the Nord letter and comments published by yourselves (see comments by David Arkush) on sites on the internet, the protest against CPSIA was not organized at the behest and influence of “large toy companies”. If you had to blame one single person for having caused the ruckus over CPSIA on the web, that would be me. I don’t even know any toy manufacturers much less large ones. In fact, not only do I not have any connection to the toy industry, I don’t even make children’s products. Persistently repeating I am or we are, tools of multinational corporations could be seen as an attempt to marginalize and deprecate our objections.

I run Fashion-Incubator.com as part and parcel of my business providing goods and services to people who want to start a clothing line. I am author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing, the most highly rated book in the garment industry. It’s been awhile but the last time I checked, I had over 8,000 unique daily visitors to my site with roughly 30% of them producing children’s wear. Being the leading site on the web, I felt it was my responsibility to advise my visitors of the pending devastation known as CPSIA. As such, I began publishing on the topic and the members of my forum (nearly 1,000) went out onto the web in innumerable forums and blogs to get the word out. You are right in that it was organized deliberate strategy and effort; it took time and no one believed it at first. I reiterate, none of us have any connection to the toy industry. Frankly, we were too inwardly absorbed with our own problems that toys did not enter our heads. That toy makers discovered how the matter affected them and ran with it to increased effect and benefit to us all, is merely a happy accident.

In keeping with the misgivings you state in your letter, I am similarly concerned about misinformation of testing quotes being propagated across the spectrum. However, contrary to your assertions, we are not the parties doing it. I have been collecting estimates for testing for some time. These are actual forms sent to customers by labs on corporate letterhead. Today I received a price estimate from a work at home mom who makes hair bows that exceeded $125,000.00. That’s right, one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. In light of that, your repeated assertions that lead testing amounts to a minuscule $25 is offensive. Tell me, which lab is this? I can send them a lot of customers. While you look for that name and number in your Rolodex, I’d be delighted to send you a very large file containing all of these reports.

Contrary to claims from some opposed to CPSIA, I do not believe that the passage of the law was a nefarious plot by large corporations to reduce competition in the market place. Whether it was an orchestrated effort by singular individuals employed by non profit special interest groups is a matter worth discussing another day but suffice to say, I believe that this law was intended to increase the safety of children’s products. However well intentioned, it will not have the desired effect of making products safer. Insult to injury, it will dramatically reduce the range of products available to consumers. Likewise, I must admit there have been unsupported claims coming from “our” camp; specifically the repeated assertion that CPSIA will “decimate” the children’s products industry. The definition of decimate is to kill one in ten and CPSIA is a far more effective killer than that. You couldn’t even describe CPSIA as “deadly as plague” since that only killed 30%-50% of infected persons. Based on the results of the Economic Impact Survey I’ve conducted, over 70% of businesses say CPSIA represents the last nail in their coffin.

Now since I don’t imagine anyone will actually read this letter, I won’t bore you with the details of how I -as an expert in production process management- think this law could be amended. I’m preparing a response to the RFC with respect to component testing that I will forward at a later date. I will tell you though that without component testing at the supplier level, it will literally be i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e to buy inputs and produce prototypes for sale in time for Market based on trade show schedules alone. Trade show dates are locked in for two, three, even four years in advance. It’s one thing to legislate manufacturers; how will you exercise influence over trade shows to reschedule events in keeping with the new, much longer production time line this law creates? Trade shows are held in convention centers owned by municipalities and it will be impossible to reschedule those dates to permit the necessary extension of time needed to permit repeated testing in product development. The unavoidable result is that trade shows themselves will be going out of business and affecting revenues of cities across the nation. The implications of this law are far greater than many imagine.

With all due consideration, I reluctantly concede that some products produced by the smallest of enterprises are not as safe as they could be and it is not difficult to find violations of existing regulations. For this reason, I agree there should not be exemptions based on company size. However, the structure of the CPSIA will not eliminate these problems either. Unlikely as it may seem, there are better solutions to increase product safety with lower enforcement costs and lower costs to consumers that will also retain the vibrancy, innovation and viability of independent businesses. Just as it was not the lack of regulation on companies regardless of size that caused defective products to enter the market in the first place, augmented regulation cannot be the panacea either.

There are two unavoidable conclusions represented by the CPSIA. The first is, products will not be safer. The Commission will be tied to never ending, ever increasing enforcement demands. The second unavoidable conclusion is that we will not give up. Not because we’re a quarrelsome lot of malcontents but simply because we cannot. We don’t have a choice. Therefore, the most pragmatic solution is to revise and assess proposed solutions from people who know how to make products so we can help you write regulations that are enforceable and result in the intended result of safer children’s products.

Most Sincerely,

Kathleen Fasanella
Apparel Technical Services

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