Editorial

Big-time misdeeds hurt small-time entrepreneurs

Monday, January 5, 2009

China's big-time irresponsibility is hurting small-time, responsible entrepreneurs.

And like the proverbial bull in the china shop, if the law isn't changed, Congress will help stomp out the mom-and-pop enterprises that have been flourishing under new opportunities made possible by the Internet.

We all remember the flood of dangerous toys that arrived on our shores in time for last year's Christmas season, from trains with lead paint, small parts like magnets that easily broke loose to be swallowed, and toys made with chemicals that could make babies sick.

Nearly all of those toys originated in China -- home to the tainted milk products that killed some of its own babies and many American pets.

Congress responded, properly so, giving the Consumer Products Safety Commission the authority as of August 2008 to ban lead and phthalates -- plasticizers to make plastics more flexible -- and mandating third-party testing. The law also requires certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

Easy enough for a large toy manufacturer which churns out toys by the millions of units.

But what about the toymaker who cuts out wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income? He can't afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the new law.

Or, what about the work-at-home mom in Minnesota who sews cloth diapers to sell online? She must either chose to violate the law or shut down her business.

Although Europe has had tough standards for years, a Vermont retailer who imports toys from Europe still must pay to test each toy imported.

Even big U.S. companies that manufacture toys -- as few as they are -- are suffering under the new regulations, despite having nothing to do with the 2007 toy safety problems.

Chances are, when you think about Christmas, your mind pictures handmade wooden toys under the tree -- or a scene from the "Babes in Toyland" movies. Those scenes just wouldn't be the same with mass-produced, labeled toys required by the new regulations.

The situation is just another example of how irresponsible, even criminal, activities by a few hurt us all. And, it's another example of just how careful government must be when adopting sweeping new regulations.

Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act:

http://www.cpsc.gov/ABOUT/Cpsia/cpsia.HT...

Homemade Toys Alliance:

http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/

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    I believe there are some exemptions being considered that would exempt "some" cloth items and other small manufacturers, but the facts of the initial law are absolutely correct as stated above. I've even seen that it could effect those that want to make a toy for their own family with no exemption whatsoever.

    One way around the law I read might be to label the item as a decoration instead of a toy... think of a wooden train set for example.

    Once again, government sticks its fingers into a subject without fully determining the ramification to small business.

    -- Posted by Brian Hoag on Tue, Jan 6, 2009, at 3:14 PM
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