"Good morning. I'm calling from the Consumer Product Safety Commission."
This hypothetical story would be cute if it wasn't so serious. If that backpack order was for 10,000 bags and CPSC "suggested" a recall, the cost to everyone—supplier, distributor and end-buyer—could easily run into six figures. The legal fees alone ...well, you know that story.
So how did we get here and what is the solution?
The problem started because Congress didn't have the promotional products industry in mind when they wrote the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (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, including a label on such product if such statement is reasonable."
Suppliers in the promotional products industry usually don't have any idea how an end-buyer is going to use a product. Many times the distributor doesn't even know—particularly in a bid situation or when an order comes in over the Internet. Yet, unless distributors and suppliers both know the intended use of a product, it's difficult to be sure that the product will comply with CPSIA. Distributors won't know that they should select compliant product and suppliers have no indication other than the artwork.
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.
So what are some possible solutions for our industry? Together with colleagues and PPAI, I've met with CPSC senior staff and here are some solutions we've discussed.