Jan 11, 2009

Resellers (and others?) not affected by new children's product safety laws

For those who might not be aware: This past week, a major issue on various parenting blogs was the impending children's product safety law that's set to go into effect in February. First, an LA Times story started a rash of blog posts all across the blogsphere about how the law was going to affect not just small business owners, but also resellers like thrift and consignment stores, garage salers, and even someone who simply wanted to give some hand me downs. (See, e.g., two of my very favorite blogs, Baby Cheapskate and Like Merchant Ships.)

Those posts were followed by calls to action to contact legislators and the CPSC to tell them how unrealistic and wasteful the law is.

Finally, on Friday, the CPSC issued a clarification, stating that second-hand items need not be tested before being sold (or, presumably, gifted). But the CPSC also says that resellers "should avoid products that are likely to have lead content," and that resellers who "do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties." The language there seems a little inconsistent to me - I can't tell if there's an absolute standard or an objectively reasonable standard (i.e., whether someone who resells an item that turns out to have an excess level of lead is liable regardless of whether she reasonably believed the item was legally considered safe).

I do know one thing: To eliminate personal liability, I'll never sell another used child-related item again. (I've sold a few things on eBay in the past.) I will only give these items away, either to friends or to charities.

How will the new law affect you, if at all?


Camille said...

I just glanced at the actual bill, and it is obvious it was intended to hit big manufacturers, but it just isn't written well (way too broad). I don't get the impression they intended to shut down yard sales (or ebay sellers) or make those selling items that way liable.

Also, isn't there the "known or should have known" element? If I sell you a pair of PJs that are later recalled, at the time I sold them there was no way I could have or should have known they were "illegal". But I don't know... just thinking out loud. :-)

I'm expecting (hoping??) either the CPSC or Congress to clarify the muddiness. I did email the CPSC and received a nice response within a few hours.

Meredith said...

I'm glad you weighed in on this issue. After I read the amended clarification, my concern was also personal liability.

It only takes one crazy person to accuse you of damaging her child's brain forever because of a lead tainted toy!