Monday, August 1, 2011

Congress Passes CPSIA Relief for Small Businesses!

In the past three years, Handmade Toy Alliance members were quoted in hundreds of news articles, testified 5 times on Capitol Hill in both the House and Senate, met with 4 out of 5 of the CPSC commissioners, phoned in to dozens of conference calls, wrote dozens of letters to the CPSC and hundreds of letters to Congress, and brought together over 600 likeminded small businesses--all to reform the CPSIA, a one-size-fits-all law that was killing our businesses.

And, just when it seemed that the debt ceiling crisis was going to swallow Washington whole and prevent any chance of CPSIA reform for another legislative session, the balance suddenly tipped yesterday. Within 8 hours, both the House and the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that provides a meaningful way forward for our members. Only two members voted against it in the House and it passed unanimously in the Senate.

While we did not write this bill, we were able to significantly influence it's design through dozens of meetings with Republican and Democratic staffers. It's not a perfect solution to the many problems of the CPSIA, but it does offer the promise of meaningful relief for small batch manufacturers. Basically, the new law will require the CPSC to identify "alternative testing methods" which are economically practical for each product safety standard which would otherwise require third party testing. And, if the CPSC is unable to identify an economically feasible alternative for a given standard, it must exempt small batch manufacturers from the testing requirement. And, it gives the CPSC the flexibility to recognize other standards, like EN-71 in the Europen Union, which paves the way for the return of small batch products from Europe.

These new rules will apply to standards such as the 100ppm lead in substrate rule, the ASTM toy safety standard, and a variety of other standards which apply to many different types of children's products. Notably, it does not apply to the lead in paint standard, the small parts standard for products designed for children under age 3, the lead in metal jewelry standard, and standards that apply to pacifiers, cribs, and durable nursery equipment; those standards will still require third party testing as they do now.

What is a small batch manufacturer? Basically, it's a business or group of similarly-owned businesses that make less than $1 million in revenue per year (indexed for inflation) from the sale of consumer goods. And, in order to qualify for these alternative testing methods or exemptions, products cannot be made in quantities greater than 7,500 per year. Qualifying small businesses will also need to register with the CPSC.

What this means is that the CPSC must act to ensure that product safety certification is affordable for small businesses. How that plays out over the next few years is very much in question, however, and it will require the HTA and other groups to remain steadfast advocates for our members. The importance of the HTA and other trade organizations will only grow as a result of this new law.

If this law is to work for us, we need your continued support! The fight is far from over--it's just moved from Congress back to the CPSC. The HTA could use your support now, more than ever. If you aren't already a member, please join us now. The HTA has low cost and even free options for membership. Not only will we be working to make sure that this new version of CPSIA does what it needs to for small batch producers, we will continue to promote members and offer great cooperative marketing opportunities.

Yesterday morning, our members were facing a drop dead date on December 31, 2011, when two important CPSC stays of enforcement on third party testing requirements were set to expire. Today, we now have a way forward that will stop the CPSIA's one-size-fits-all approach and will hopefully keep our family businesses alive. That is the victory in today's votes.

We did this together! Thank you!


  1. More dumb law. So if you gross 1.5 million but make only batches of 1 to 500 you are out of business?
    This all should be taking place at the raw goods level and the supplier should give a certification. Of course none of this would matter if our government just aimed this at china were all these foul products originate.

  2. You're totally right. The $1M limit makes little sense from an economic or public health point of view. The CPSC does have component testing rules in place, but they are doing little to force compliance up the supply chain since raw materials are not "consumer products" and are not regulated by the agency until they are part of a finished product. Hopefully the marketplace will improve the availability of pre-tested components over time.

  3. Thank you so much for working diligently on our behalf!