Friday, January 23, 2009

CPSIA Meeting with Etsy Admin

I just sat through an online discussion with one of the administrators of Etsy.com. In case you do not know, Etsy.com is an online host of thousands of individual shops targeted to handmade and vintage items. A large category of Etsy.com is children's products, so the administrators have done a lot of reading about and discussing this is. Administration has met directly with people from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Etsy admin has made it part of their mission to help educate their clients (the sellers as well as buyers) and implement an action plan.

There were technical difficulties during the discussion, so a summary of what the administrator had to say is going to be posted on Etsy Monday. I will post a link to the written text once it is available.

These are my notes about the person's understanding of the regulations based on reading the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and talking directly with CPSC). Here are some highlights:

The lead and labeling laws under consideration affect all products (not just toys) for children 12 and under.

Even if a manufacturer (large or small) knows the component parts of their product to be lead free, the final product (once put together) still needs to be tested again. In effect, the individual items become something new when put together in a piece of clothing, book, toy or what have you--and that final piece needs to be tested.

Exemptions that were publicized in the news have been put on hold by Obama's administration (pending review). So, the law goes into effect on February 10, but the exemptions for untreated fabric, wool, wood and some other items (I do not have a complete list) are, at the moment, not "legitimate" exemptions. It is likely these will pass after review. Once these "exempt" items are treated in any way (dyed, painted, etc), they will require testing.

Although resellers and sellers of vintage items are not responsible for testing products, should a product they sell be found to contain lead, then they will be held responsible. The fines for each item (in a civil suit) range from $100,000 to $15 million per item. If people sell items that are inherently low in lead, then, for some, this might be a "reasonable" risk to take.

Etsy, at this point, will not be pulling items starting February 10, but they will expect sellers to comply with new regulations. (My impression: This is subject to change if Etsy's lawyers hear from the CPSC they need to do differently. Remember, you, as the manufacturer/seller of the product will be held responsible...not Etsy, who is just a host site).

It is clear from what Admin and others said during the meeting--and from what I have read--that the CPSC is still figuring all this out. There is continuing (and pretty consistent) pressure for the CPSC to create clear guidelines. The nature of the meeting was not to stop lead testing...again, people, as a whole want safer products for children...the emphasis will be on how to implement safety regulations without putting an undo burden on the small manufacturers (worldwide, since these law affect people from outside the country just as much as it does within the US). The other area of focus is the component testing issue which the administrator seemed to think "was an area on which they seem willing to bend."

The tone of the meeting was one of urging people to educate themselves on this issue (there is a lot of emotion around this issue and a lot of rumor and misinformation) and trying to get people to not panic. It is not likely that CPSC will be in a position to enforce the regs come February 10. It is a serious issue, though, so people will need to decide what is best for their own businesses.

Here are a few links to articles that are pretty good indicators of the "buzz" around this issue.

Committee on Energy and Commerce Letter to CPSC

Walter Olsen of Forbes Magazine

Article One
Article Two

The CPSC is taking public comment and continues to post answers to frequently asked questions on their website.

That is it for now, I think. As I hear more, I will pass it along.

Cheers!--Janyce
Sojourn Quilts
"A Resting Place Along Life's Journey"

2 comments:

Kim said...

Great article! I put a link to this article on my blog...hopefully lots of people read it and something HAPPENS!

ArtSnark said...

Thanks for the summary!