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Toy Recall Prompts CPSC Reform Bill

Published December 3, 2007

BY MATT WIEBE

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Bike manufacturers could feel the backlash from a recent spate of recalls that have raised a cry for stricter product regulation from federal legislators.

In the last four months more than 10 million toys have been recalled. In addition, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently recalled 4.2 million Aqua Dots craft kits.

“Millions of parents are asking how this could happen. The truth is the agency charged with their children’s safety is hamstrung by a lack of resources and outdated regulations,” said Senator Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in a Nov. 8 press release.

Pryor, along with co-sponsor Sena-tor Daniel Inouye, D- Hawaii, introduced Senate Bill 2045 to increase the effectiveness of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The bill seeks to authorize additional funding for the agency to increase staff levels, improve antiquated testing facilities, increase CPSC agents at U.S. ports of entry and completely ban lead from children’s products.

Pryor’s bill cleared its first hurdle Oct. 30, passing a senate commerce committee vote, and is on its way to other committees before being passed onto the floor for a vote.

The proposed changes have captured the attention of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA). Last year, 21 bicycle suppliers were charged with violating California’s Proposition 65, a law limiting the amount of lead consumer products can contain.

“This is a significant concern. The board has been meeting regularly and staying apprised of pending legislation, including Sen. Pryor’s CPSC reform bill,” said John Nedeau, BPSA’s president and SRAM’s vice president of sales.

“While none of the provisions of that bill affect the bicycle industry directly, the proposed changes to the manner in which the CPSC operates would have a significant impact on all companies that sell consumer products,” he added.

Most of Pryor’s CPSC reforms focus on children’s products. The CPSC currently divides bikes into two categories, neither of which are called children’s bikes.

The bill defines children’s products as those targeting kids younger than 7 years old, but how this translates into bike categories is not clear. Some of the bill’s proposed changes to the CPSC include:

• Third-party certification of children’s products
• Labeling of children’s products to enable the ultimate purchaser to ascertain the source, date, and cohort of production of the product
• Identification of manufacturer by name and address required by importers, retailers and distributors
• Allow state Attorneys General to bring civil action on behalf of its residents to enforce product safety laws and obtain damages and restitution
• Provide whistleblower protections for manufacturers’ and importers’ employees to shed light on any problems along the supply chain
• Increase civil fines up to $250,000 per violation with a cap at $100 million
• Increase criminal penalties to five years in jail for those who knowingly and willingly violate product safety laws

“Some of these proposed changes we already do with bikes. For example, a bike’s serial number tells you when and where a bike was produced,” said Forrest Yelverton, Pacific Cycle’s vice president of engineering and quality assurance.

He noted that while it is unclear how the proposed reform will impact the bike industry, a lot can happen to a bill as it progresses through the legislative system.

The BPSA is discussing formalizing a committee on standards and regulations. Its mission would be to review proposed legislation as well as evolving standards and regulations that impact the industry.

For example, bike makers already have third-party certification of bikes sold on the European market since they have to pass European CEN standards. The BPSA wants to find out if the CPSC would accept CEN certification in the future.

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