CPSC Wants To Make Retailers Test Products They Sell

If pending legislation passes, the CPSC may make retailers test their wares, and make retailers legally responsible for the products they sell. CPSC chair Nancy Nord said yesterday at a press conference, “the ultimate responsibility at the end of the day to make sure that their products are safe and if they do not, we will take enforcement activity at the product sellers.”

Previously, CPSC action has focused on manufacturers. Interesting. The cynic in me says this is a sure sign of how well manufacturers have the CPSC in the pocket. You know they’re just itching to not be on the hook. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to focus on the source of the goods, rather than after the fact? On the other hand, everyone in the supply chain should bear some responsibility for the safety of the goods they sell. Perhaps if manufacturers know they can’t make a defective product and have it be sold anyway, they will be more careful about what they make in the first place?

In addition, Nord announced the CPSC would use new funds to post full-time inspectors at high-traffic ports, took time to defend trips she took that had come under political fire and scrutiny, to decry presidential candidates using the CPSC issue as a political tool, to describe the media frenzy around 2007 product safety as having approached “hysteria”, and settled once and for all that she definitely, definitely, did not break Mom’s favorite lamp back at the old Cedar Brook house.

Safety Push Focuses on Retailers [WSJ]
(Photo: AP)

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  1. econobiker says:

    Yesssssssss, make Wal-Mart test every toy and cheap electronic component that they sell. Like that will ever happen….

  2. Freedomboy says:

    Oh, can’t we fire these jerks NOW?

  3. sonichghog says:

    Lets be real, if this ever did happen, most toys that are 3+ will be 9+ instantly.

  4. joeblevins says:

    My guess is this will just create a product testing industry. Each store doesn’t need need to test it, only make sure it is registered with a testing lab. Kinda like UL, but much larger.

  5. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    I can see it now, Apu will test everything he sells at the Kwiki-Mart.
    And all of it will be approved!

  6. naptownman says:

    Nancy Nord has to be one of the most incompetent Washington bureaucrats ever. It makes me wonder what amount in on the paycheck she steals every month ‘cuz Lord knows she isn’t earning it.

  7. AstroPig7 says:

    @joeblevins: Since, you know, we don’t already have a government agency that’s supposed to do this already.

  8. naptownman says:

    Nancy Nord has to be one of the most incompetent Washington bureacrats ever. I wonder what amount is on the paycheck she steals every month – she’s definitely not earning it.

  9. naptownman says:

    Sorry for the dup….

  10. NickRB says:

    This will result in the creation of a civilian testing industry. Underwriter laboratories exists for this reason. No government help needed. They do a better job than the government used to do too. I’m sure that some third party companies will develop to do testing. Eventually their seal will become synonymous with safe products and stores will be happy to pay the extra to carry it.

    I also think the article is being misread. Retailers will not have to test EVERY single product that goes out the door, but rather test a sample of every single product. UL doesn’t test every toaster that gets sold, they just test a few and issue their seal of approval.

  11. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    Retailers already are responsible for what they sell. It’s called strict liability for defective products.

    As noted, this is facially a very inefficient means of ensuring that testing is done, but with so many products produced overseas (i.e. beyond the control of the U.S. government), it may be the only way. Assuming you believe that universal testing is necessary.

    FWIW, I don’t. I think juries provide enough incentive to keep seriously dangerous products off the shelves. Media fearmongering (“poison train,” I’m looking at you) will do the rest.

  12. Sounds like it’d drive a lot of small merchants out of business.

  13. Dibbler says:

    All I can say is this: “That lady in the picture is just about the scariest lady I’ve ever seen.” Now I’ll go read the article…

  14. Dibbler says:

    …ok, I read the article and this is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Retailers will only sell generic items that have passed some lawyers test. Making a store liable for anything they ever sell will make lawyers drool with anticipation and drive many stores out of business, make a few low life’s rich and that’s about it. Why does the US government hate free enterprise so much?

  15. Curiosity says:

    @Dibbler:
    Makes sense that “Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler” would say that (for the explanation see [en.wikipedia.org]).

    However, I think the issue is like fraudulent misrepresentation. At the very least the business owner represents that the product is safe etc. though I do not get why such legislation is needed.

  16. lostalaska says:

    I don’t get it, is it laziness, incompetence or payola issues as to why the CPSC wants to offload all of it’s duties directly to the retailers?

    Maybe I just don’t see the “bigger” picture here, but every time I’ve seen her on the news it just sounds like excuses or finger pointing when she starts in on her talking points.

  17. Tonguetied says:

    Talk about a major gift to the trial lawyers. Bend over America and prepare to be screwed. You’ll get a $5 coupon while some law firm will be raking in the millions….

  18. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    Big retailers can afford to test one of everything they sell; small retailers, not so much.

  19. Curiosity says:

    @Tonguetied:
    Which is $5 more than you would have gotten?

  20. anatak says:

    no. No way manufacturers should be responsible for the products they make. No, no, no. How could they? They only design, engineer, manufacture, and market their products. There is simply no opportunity to add ‘test’ into that process.

  21. loueloui says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with having the retailers test everything. However I do think that someone, and not just some faceless sweatshop laborer, should be testing this stuff.

    I think that the manufacturer, or maybe the importing firm, should be responsible for this. We also should make the retailers liable at least somewhat, otherwise they would have no incentive to pull recalled goods ala Wal-Mart.

  22. Tonguetied says:

    @curiosity: And $50 more you’ll be paying at the register when the retailers jack their prices up to pay off the trial lawyers.

  23. hmasing says:

    As a retailer of specialty toys, I can tell you that if the CPSC requires this, I am out of business, along with most of the specialty toy industry. I simply cannot afford the cost of testing each product I sell. These are the mom and pop toy stores – not Wal-Mart or Target or the other big boxes. Living in Michigan, I am already faced with the new legislation regarding levels of lead in childrens products – which I wholeheartedly and 100% endorse (and testified in front of the state senate committee that created the legislation to that effect). However, I am NOT being hyperbolic here – I have determined the cost to test everything I sell, and it is overwhelming. The cost of a single testing XRF scanner is $45,000, and I carry about 11,000 SKU’s. To properly test an item, multiple scans need to be made, and since I don’t know the lot that each toy comes from, each item I sell (EVERY SINGLE ITEM – NOT JUST A SKU), must be tested. Either I test at sale time, adding 10-12 minutes to each checkout, or I scan ahead of time. Having tested items with an XRF scanner, I know that it takes about 10-12 minutes to properly scan, note, and access the item. this also means OPENING every item I sell beforehand. So, in addition to the cost of the hardware, I now have to absorb the cost of adding two full-time employees who’s job is just testing toys.

    The burden for toy safety should be on the MANUFACTURER – they are the ones making the choices of the materials in the products, and they are the ones who cut corners to satisy shareholders, and THEY are the ones losing control of their manufacturing processes.

    I am very pleased to say that in the specialty toy industry (this is not Barbie and GI Joe, this is wooden blocks and trains and dolls), we have an outstanding track record of product safety. When the healthytoys.org website tested in our store, we found exactly TWO produts out of the hundreds and hundreds they tested that had issues – one was a screw in a product that had lead content, the other was with a PVC lining of a lunchbox, which tested later to show that the toxic chemicals were not soluable and did not come out of the material under digestion and did not leach out. We still did the responsible thing and pulled the products.

    However, the CPSC paints regulations with a broad brush, and does not discriminate between our products and those in the mass market.