After Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008, the 111th Congress took little action, allowing the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) time to implement the rules and regulations required in the law. However, we believe that after receiving tens of thousands of complaints from small business owners and consumers over the past two years, and with Republican control of the House, Congress will exert more oversight of the CPSC next year during the 112th Congress.

Many Members of Congress from both parties recognize that the CPSIA needs to be amended to correct several unintended consequences, such as a ban on youth model bicycles, ATVs and motor bikes. CPSC Commissioners sent a letter to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman in January 2010 unanimously supporting legislative fixes to the original legislation. A bill was floated by Democrats for a narrow set of amendments to CPSIA; and a hearing was held on the draft bill on April 29, 2010. However, Democrats and Republicans could not agree on the scope of the amendments and the bill was shelved.

The new leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will likely examine ways to, at a minimum, allow for targeted legislative fixes without overturning the entire law. The Senate, while staying under control of the Democrats, also indicated that it intends to review potential targeted fixes to CPSIA.

There are a number of CPSIA-related deadlines that may also spur Congressional attention:

  • Several stays of enforcement imposed by the CPSC expire in 2011, with a majority of CPSC Commissioners indicating they don't plan to extend the deadline. These stays include:
    • Testing and Certification Requirements for lead content limits (ends February 10, 2011)
    • Bicycle, jogger strollers and bicycle trailers (ends July 1, 2011)
    • Youth ATVs, off-road motorcycles and snowmobiles (ends May 1, 2011)
  • The lead limit for children's consumer products will be further reduced to 100 part-per-million (ppm) on August 14, 2011. This lead limit is retroactive, meaning that products already on the shelf will have to meet the new standard or be destroyed. By making these limits retroactive, Congress caused havoc in the marketplace over the past two years when the new lead limit was imposed at 600ppm and then reduced to 300ppm in 2010. CPSC sent a letter in January 2010 encouraging Congress to amend the CPSIA so that the 100ppm only applies to products made after the new standard becomes effective.
  • The CPSC's Consumer Database, mandated by the CPSIA, is scheduled to go online in March 2011. This searchable Internet database will contain reports of product defects and harm caused by consumer products. Manufacturers are concerned that the database will become a dumping ground for unsubstantiated accusations and a treasure trove for product-liability attorneys.
  • While federal legislation was introduced in 2010 to ban cadmium from children's jewelry following media reports, look for Congress to defer to CPSC to develop a standard and regulate this product in 2011.

In summary, there is growing pressure for Congress to fix the problems associated with the CPSIA. While efforts to amend the law failed in 2010, look for these efforts to be renewed in 2011 along with more oversight of CPSC from Congress.