Last December the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) adopted new standards for crib design, a step mandated by the famously overreaching Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). The commission decided to go well beyond a set of voluntary design standards that had been widely adopted the year before; it also chose to make the new rules retroactive, rendering unlawful the sale of many existing cribs whose overall safety record is otherwise acceptable—no one would think of subjecting them to a recall, for instance. Commissioner Nancy Nord:
The day care industry did protest that the rule, as proposed, would result in approximately a $1/2 billion hit to a group that could not immediately absorb costs of such magnitude, especially on the heels of having just bought new cribs to meet the standards of 2009. As a result, at the last minute just before finalizing the rule, the Commission agreed to amend the proposed rule to delay the effective date for this group by 18 months. There was no analysis behind this date; basically, it was pulled out of a hat.
Manufacturers and sellers fared less well, however, and were stuck with a deadline of June 28, 2011, that is, today. Commission staff predicted that retailers would not suffer significant economic harm, which turned out to be wrong, as the commission learned when they began hearing from “small retailers who are stuck with stranded inventory that they cannot sell, also asking for a delay,” according to Nord.
How much stranded inventory? Quite a lot, says Commissioner Anne Northup:
The retailers of these cribs, which the Commission deemed were safe enough to continue to be used for another two years in day care facilities, stand to lose at least $32 million dollars when they are required to throw out noncompliant cribs on June 28.
That’s a lot of landfill space that may be needed in coming days. Nord again:
An internal survey of 5 retailers found that those companies had at least 100,000 non‐complying cribs in inventory. A survey done by a trade association representing one part of the small retailer community found that 35 companies had 17,500 cribs that cannot legally be sold in two weeks.
Retailers pleading for a longer transition period got no mercy from the hard‐line pro‐regulation Commission majority led by Obama appointee Inez Tenenbaum. In a similar way, the much vaster stranded‐inventory problems and compliance nightmares engendered by CPSIA as a whole keep getting worse rather than better, due to an equally obdurate attitude from the commission’s current leadership and its Democratic allies in Congress. Politically and with the press, there seems to be little downside in striking cost‐no‐object For the Children postures, even if the result is to place untenable burdens on the sorts of local shopkeepers and service providers who specialize in meeting the everyday needs of children.
Related, at my website Overlawyered: “Thanks for standing by for eight months after we told you to stop selling your infant slings pending a recall. We’ve decided no recall is needed. What, you’re out of business? Never mind.”