Product Liabilty Law

New Law to Make Child Products Safe is Dangerous to Retailers


Updated: It won’t even be effective until Feb. 10. But a new law intended to protect children from dangerous products that contain lead or phthalates is already sending shivers down the spines of retailers and their legal counsel.

Although the goal of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is a worthy one, the expensive across-the-board product safety testing it mandates simply isn’t feasible for some manufacturers and products, reports Forbes, in a Good Counsel column written by Philadelphia lawyer Robert Bovarnick.

Plus, a retroactivity provision in the law means that retailers could be held liable for stocking their store shelves with existing products that don’t comply with the law; any product that hasn’t been tested is banned as hazardous, Bovarnick explains.

Initially, the same rules also applied to thrift stores, but when it appeared that the law could put them out of business restrictions on such resellers of used merchandise were eased. There is now disagreement and uncertainty, however, about the exact rules that apply to thrift stores, and resellers are still worried about potential violations, according to media reports.

At this point, it is probably too late to make other suggested changes before the new statute takes effect, Bovarnick says—and the potential seven-figure fines and criminal penalties it provides for violators are daunting indeed.

Updated at 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 16 to clarify that thrift stores are not entirely exempted from the new law and provide link to Los Angeles Times article.

Additional coverage:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: “Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act”

CNNMoney.com: “New law could wipe out handcrafted toy makers”

Los Angeles Times: “Lead testing law won’t apply to thrift stores”

Columbus Dispatch: “Resellers still wary of law on lead in toys”

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