Yesterday marked the first day that plaintiffs’ attorneys could file suits against anyone selling goods covered by the Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act –basically anything intended for use by children. This draconian law continues to sweep across the retail world and to cause economic damage that is deep and enduring. The impact on all-terrain vehicles, for example, was clearly not foreseen by Congress but the strict liabilities of the Act have forced the withdrawal of tens of millions of dollars of product from the market and a resulting devastation on the industry.
Listening to the president last night promise recovery, it occurred to me that the appropriations bill now moving through the Congress is a vehicle for CPSIA reform. At a minimum it ought to include a rider that delays the effective date of CPSIA for another year. Alternatively, it could provide funding to replace the suddenly worthless inventory covered by the Act and an exemption for the resale market. (Thrift shops and other charitable resellers have been particularly hard hit by CPSIA given their very low profit margins and their inability to afford pricey compliance lawyers.)
The recession has already slammed many retailers. Allowing CPSIA to continue its rollout, now accompanied by legions of plaintiffs’ lawyers, is the equivalent of the old medical practice of bleeding the ill. Congress can fix this, and should.