WASHINGTON -- Bulk vending leaders traveled to Capitol Hill on June 26 to meet with members of Congress, legislative directors and committee staffers to press for relief from onerous Section 103 in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. With the clock ticking toward the Aug.14 enactment of the new law that would require tracking labels on all toys sold in the U.S, officials from the National Bulk Vendors Association made their case for an exclusionary ruling in the vending channel.
If enacted in its current form, Section 103 would require manufacturers of bulk vending merchandise to label each toy with such information as source of the product, date of manufacture, and batch or run numbers. The association's position is that such labeling is physically impossible given the amount of usable surface area typically available on the majority of bulk-vended toys. Even if such labeling could be accomplished by way of some yet unidentified technology, the costs would very likely prove prohibitively high for the low-cost vendible toys.
PHOTO: From left, NBVA's Carl Morcate and Kevin Dumphy and association counselor Matt Cohen discuss labeling issue with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
In short, the bulk vending industry, which has complied with all rulings of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the past, now finds itself in the unenviable position in which compliance is either physically impossible or financially disastrous.
According to the bulk vending professionals who made the journey to Washington, those involved in the legislative process seem willing to consider a technical corrections bill, which would outline exclusions to tracking and labeling provisions required by the law.
"I think generally policymakers are very understanding of the concern and sympathetic," said Quin Dodd of the NBVA's law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo LLP, which organized the assembly. "I think a lot of staff and lawmakers didn't fully understand the breadth of this mandate that all children's products bear tracking labels by Aug. 14."
Industry experts also pointed out several unique aspects of bulk vending products that make such labeling unnecessary. Consumer action during a recall of a bulk vending product, for instance, almost always entails simply throwing the product away as opposed to sending it back to the bulk operator or manufacturer for a refund. And because there are relatively few suppliers in the industry, tracking goods is easier in bulk vending than in other industries.
With current legislation offering relief to bulk vending already brewing in Congress, the NBVA said its strategy during the meetings consisted of explaining the consequences of the law to policymakers. However, there are potential roadblocks. Although policymakers may be sympathetic to the industry's potential plight under Section 103, few want to appear "soft" on the issue of child safety. This is particularly true in light of the fact that consumer advocacy groups have taken a hard line on the issue and appear unwilling to compromise when it comes to the labeling law.
The CPSC has not yet issued guidance on the labeling requirement's practicability. Adding to the confusion, the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce committees are taking the position that the CPSIA can be dealt with by the commission. Whatever ruling the CPSC announces, Dodd pointed out, may not necessarily solve the problem. Under the new law, attorneys general of all 50 states are empowered to enforce the CPSIA, making a statutory exclusion a necessity.
Industry members attending the meetings in late June were Judy Fisher-George of Gus Gumballs (Laurel, MD); Philip Brilliant of A&A Global Industries; Dax Logue of Brand Vending Products; and Don Goletz, Vendomatic(Frederick, MD). Also on hand were Carl Morcate of Vendynamics; Bob Wascher of Coinstar (Bellevue, WA); John Lander, of Concord Confections; Tom Paszkiewicz of Cardinal Distributing; and Kevin Dumphy of SSM Vending.
"It was a disappointing turnout from the industry, but I think the nine people who participated had the impact of 90," said NBVA president, Randy Chilton of Coinstar.
"I'm not brave enough to predict the outcome, but we have never made a financial commitment of this magnitude to a single issue before," he told VT. "The association is working hard to give it the best possible chance of success."
Tenenbaum Takes Helm At The CPSC
WASHINGTON -- South Carolinian and former state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum is starting a four-year term as chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Tenenbaum, President Obama's choice to lead the commission, was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate on June 19. The vote came just three days after her confirmation hearing -- an unusually speedy nod of approval.
Tenenbaum was elected as South Carolina's education superintendent in 1998 and completed her second term in 2007. She previously practiced health, environmental and public interest law with Sinkler & Boyd P.A. Before attending law school, she served as the director of research for the Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She has also served on numerous taskforces that provide oversight on children and family services in the state.
Tenenbaum replaced acting CPSC chairwoman Nancy Nord, who was appointed to the commission in 2005 and said last fall that she planned to serve out her term as a commissioner, which would have ended in 2012. However, Nord had been the subject of intense criticism by lawmakers of both parties for lax enforcement of toy safety laws and for repeatedly taking costly trips at industry expense.