Right Thinking From The Left Coast
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau

The March of the CPSIA

Periodically, I’ve been noting the results of the CPSIA.  This is the legislation supposedly aimed at getting lead out of our toys.  However, because it applies to thrift stores, small toy makers and even garage sales, the primary effect is to bankrupt small toymakers, take used toys off the market and force everyone to buy from big monolithic corporations.

Two stories this week illustrate the point.  The CPSC is started an online database that will allow people to look up products to see if they’ve been recalled and file complaints about products that injure them.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  But Point of Law notes the lack of information control.

“Unless done very carefully, the database will be of little use to the average consumer, but subject to potential mischief in the hands of plaintiff lawyers,” warns Sean Wajert. As with the already existing NHTSA database, high rates of consumer complaints filed by lawyers organizing suits against a company (like Toyota) will then be cited in credulous media as proof that the company’s products must indeed have a problem. Hugh Hewitt calls it “the database that ate American business” and writes, “Reputations will be ruined and brands deeply damaged once the Congressionally-mandated internet bulletin board becomes operational.”

Of course, we all know that the very existence of complaints proves their allegations.  The experience of NHTSA’s database has not deterred anyone or raised a caution flag.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  The ability of slimy lawyers to drum up bullshit scandals is a feature, not a bug.

This effects both large and small companies, of course.  And big companies are fatter targets for lawyers.  However, big companies have lawyers of their own and politicians in their pockets.  What happens to small toy makers when ADA lawsuits become toy lawsuits?

What makes this really enragifying is that while the government is putting together an uncontrolled database that can ruin companies, it is still handing out waivers to ... wait for it ...

The nation’s biggest toy maker, Mattel Inc., is getting another exemption on federal safety rules even as smaller companies struggle with testing costs imposed after a rash of Mattel toy recalls in 2007.

Under the law passed after the recalls, the makers of children’s products must perform independent third-party tests for lead, lead paint and other potential dangers.

On Friday, however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously to approve Mattel’s request to use two more of its own company laboratories for the third-party checks on its toys.

CPSC said Mattel was able to show that its in-house testing would provide equal or greater consumer safety protection than an outside lab.

Mattel’s Lisa Marie Bongiovanni said the company has a rigorous testing program, but that it also continues to send some of its products to outside labs for testing.

The mantra of the libertarian is that incentives matter.  The federal government, under the guise of protecting children, is giving Mattel a huge advantage over small toy makers and used toy sellers.  In other words, contaminating two millions toys with lead could turn out to be the best business decision Mattel ever made.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/25/10 at 01:08 PM (Discuss this in the forums)

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