Misinformation and the CPSIA

There’s some talk today about misinformation around the CPSIA after a TV interview that commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese did. (For those just joining us, CPSIA is a new product safety law that small retailers say will force them out of business through burdensome testing mandates.) Since we’re in the information business, I just wanted to briefly run through this.

“There is a lot of misinformation being floated out by the media, by the mommy blogs, by others blogging on legislation that they’re just not understanding,” Vallese said in the interview (around 3:15 in the video). Probably not the best PR move to single out “the mommy blogs.” But putting that aside, here’s the Catch-22 on this. There is a huge lack of information and clarification from the regulators about how this law will be implemented. The CPSC’s site does little to elucidate the law. With a dearth of official information, the people affected are forced to interpret the law themselves.

The regulators are in a bind because they have to enforce the law Congress wrote. They say they plan to start an official rulemaking process on exemptions soon, but that won’t be done before the Feb. 10 deadline for the first phase of enforcement. Until those official rules are decided, it seems like there will continue to be confusion and ambiguity surrounding this. (Good luck looking to the actual law for help.)

Is there misinformation “out there” on the Internet? No doubt. But I think it’s more because there’s so little authoritative information to guide people. I don’t think many people are deliberately spreading misleading information on this. But almost no one has good guidance yet, so speculation abounds. For reporters, bloggers, business owners, consumers, or anyone trying to understand this, that makes it tough to wrap your head around.

We’re interested in good information here. We’re interested in a thoughtful policy debate about the best way to keep kids’ products safe without putting small shops and producers out of business. What we’re not interested in is noise or personal attacks that don’t advance the conversation, and to everyone’s credit, the discussion here has been remarkably thoughtful.

Let’s keep it going. Post sources of good information here, or on the page we built for this on the Business Exchange. And thanks to all who are helping us cover this running story.

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