Not Knowing the Intended Use of a Product Puts Suppliers and Distributors at Risk
"Unless distributors and suppliers both know the intended use of a product, it's difficult to be sure that the product will comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). It can lead to a costly recall that could easily run into six figures plus legal fees," said Rick Brenner, CEO of Bridgeport, Connecticut-based Prime Line and a leading authority on industry product safety issues.
In a new online blog article entitled "Good morning. I'm Calling from the Consumer Product Safety Commission," Brenner describes a scenario in which a backpack had been imprinted with a scene of three little bears heading into a red school house yet the supplier is unaware that the juvenile imprint converts the bag into a children's product.
"So how did we get here and what is the solution," Brenner asks. "The problem started because Congress didn't have the promotional products industry in mind when it wrote the CPSIA. They were targeting companies like Mattel and Hasbro—companies that produce children's products and toys for a specific age range. In fact, the very first criteria that Congress wrote into the law for determining whether a product is a children's product is ... 'A statement by a manufacturer about the intended use of such product if such statement is reasonable.'"
Brenner believes that "industry suppliers usually don't have any idea how an end-buyer is going to use a product. Even if a supplier takes the time to evaluate the art, it can be challenging from the image or slogan to figure out who the product is intended for. Winnie the Pooh is easy. A less obvious but equally juvenile design is not."
"Many times the distributor doesn't even know—particularly in a bid situation or when an order comes over the internet," said Brenner, a candidate for the PPAI Board of Directors. "Without this information, distributors won't know that they should select a compliant product."
At a meeting between Brenner, colleagues at PPAI and CPSC senior staff, the group discussed several possible solutions for our industry:
1) Suppliers can identify in their lines each product that could possibly be regarded by CPSC as a children's product, either because it innately fits the children's product definition or because it could become a children's product after being imprinted with a juvenile image. Then, if each of these products is manufactured and tested to CPSIA children's product standards, there is no issue. No one would have to evaluate art or worry about who a particular order is intended for because every product complies.