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Testing Deadline Looms for New CPSC Law

Published November 3, 2008

BY NICOLE FORMOSA

BETHESDA, MD—The clock is ticking for manufacturers who haven’t yet reacted to the new consumer product safety reform legislation.

The first deadline associated with the law is Nov. 12, when manufacturers must start testing to certify products—including bikes, helmets and accessories—meant for kids 12 and under, meet CPSC standards.

Third-party testing through an accredited laboratory for lead levels in paint and substrate is required by Dec. 21.

John Nedeau, president of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, said that while some may be a bit behind the ball, the industry is largely ready to comply with the law.

“I think Prop. 65 was a blessing in disguise because it prepared us for this kind of requirement,” Nedeau said, referring to a California law limiting the amount of lead consumer products can contain. “I think across the broad base of players in the industry, there’s some level of preparedness here.”

However, some challenges remain, such as whether enough accredited labs will be set up to test by the deadline, how to deal with the potential backlog of manufacturers waiting for their products to be tested, and whether the CPSC will accept testing from labs the industry is already using, but that are awaiting accreditation, Nedeau said. Complicating matters, the bike industry’s not the only one in line; the law focuses primarily on the toy industry.

The law, called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, also requires that a paper certificate of compliance accompany all imported products at the port (an electronic format may be permitted in the future), which must be made available to distributors and retailers electronically.

Along with testing for lead, manufacturers will also need to supply certification for other products the CPSC oversees. For the bike industry, this includes bikes and bike helmets for all ages; however, testing for adult products can be done in-house and doesn’t need to be outsourced.

Products without certification or with a false certificate will be refused admittance into the United States and destroyed, and the manufacturer will face civil penalties, according to the law.

For Quality Bicycle Products, one of the industry’s largest suppliers of parts and accessories, ensuring that its 28,000 SKUs from 450 suppliers are all in compliance will be no small task.

“It’s a huge administrative burden,” said Matt Moore, risk manager and general counsel for the distributor. QBP already staffs two employees to check products for compliance with Prop. 65 and a quality control manager to oversee QBP’s house brands, which also will need certifications.

Many of the larger suppliers have already been testing for lead content due to Prop 65, and even more so after 21 bike suppliers were sued for violating that law in 2006.

Easton-Bell Sports, which was one of the companies named in the lawsuit, began extensive in-house and third-party testing in Asia several years ago, said Thom Park, vice president of corporate affairs for Easton-Bell. Also, Wal-Mart pushed all its vendors to start testing shortly after the consumer product reform bill was introduced, which helped Easton-Bell stay ahead of the curve.

“We are going to do whatever it takes to comply,” Park said. “We’re going to really stay in touch with this and make sure that we pick up the little bits and pieces that can help us.”

While the BPSA is representing the industry to the CPSC, Nedeau stressed that individual companies need to take it upon themselves to make sure they’re complying with the law.

“I don’t want a member company assuming that somehow they should be waiting for direction from the BPSA,” he said.

The BPSA does intend to work with the CPSC on behalf of the industry in the future to update the outdated bicycle safety standards the CPSC uses to oversee the industry, Nedeau said.

The new law also will have potential implications at the retail level.

Bill Randen, general manager of Minnesota’s Penn Cycle, recognizes that someone will have to absorb the costs for increased testing and said it’s likely to travel down the supply chain to the consumer.

“The cost for children’s bikes are already as high as I’ve ever seen them,” Randen said.

Randen is also concerned that product availability could be an issue next season if manufacturers are held up waiting in line to get their goods tested.

For now, Randen plans to stay in communication with his vendors to make sure they’re in compliance.

“From my standpoint, I think we’re going to have to be much more careful buying in the future, especially from smaller companies that are not on top of this in the short term. We certainly don’t want to end up being in violation,” he said.

For updates on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and for a list of accredited laboratories, go to www.cpsc.gov.

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