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Signs Show Obama Favors Stricter CPSC

Published November 20, 2008

WASHINGTON (BRAIN)—The bike industry could be looking at stricter consumer product safety regulations based on early indications from President-elect Barack Obama.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Obama may tap Pam Gilbert, a product safety lawyer on his transition team, to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Gilbert, who served as executive director of the agency under the Clinton administration, favors working with industry on enforcement and the toughest possible standards, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This means the bike industry will need to do its homework and take the CPSC and mandatory federal regulations very seriously, said Jay Townley, an industry consultant who worked with the CPSC to develop the bicycle regulations in the 1970s.

“The Commission may look disorganized, understaffed and overwhelmed today, but under an administration and chair person that intends to apply the Consumer Product Safety Act to the full extent of the law and regulation at its disposal, it will get the funding the recent amendments specify, and will quickly become a regulatory force to be respected and dealt with expeditiously, objectively and very carefully,” Townley said.

Historically, the CPSC has been on the bottom end of the priority list, but the agency was thrust into the public eye last year during a spate of massive toy recalls.

In August, President Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Information Act of 2008 into law, authorizing a significant increase in funding—up to $136.4 million by 2014—travel allowances for commissioners and staff and the authority to have up to 500 employees working with the Commission by 2013, including personnel to be assigned to duty stations at U.S. ports of entry or to inspect overseas manufacturing facilities.

If that funding is appropriated under the Obama administration, it could mean stricter oversight of CPSC regulations.

The new administration has said it wants to double the agency’s budget, streamline the nation’s product recall system to reduce companies’ involvement in the process and hike fines for safety violations, the Journal said.

The new law requires bike manufacturers to ship bicycles with a certificate of compliance stating the products meet all standards overseen by the CPSC. The law also includes strict regulations on the amount of lead in children’s products.

The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association has been working with the CPSC to determine the exact implications of the new law on the industry. The BPSA also hopes to work with CPSC staff in the future on updating the outdated bicycle regulations, some of which no longer apply to today’s technology.

Townley said that collaboration may only be the start if Gilbert ends up chairing the agency.

“If she is appointed I would look for the bike industry to be called in early on to work out enforcement issues, and to a high-quality standards development process at some point in the near future,” Townley said.

—Nicole Formosa

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