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Product Safety Reforms Become Law

Published August 18, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BRAIN)—A bill that strengthens the reach of the governing body that oversees product safety regulations, including those for bicycles, has cleared its final hurdle.

President George W. Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 into law last Thursday.

The Act increases funding to the Consumer Product Safety Commission; stiffens civil and criminal penalties for violations; and requires the CPSC to create and maintain a public database of hazardous products, among other things.

The legislation was first introduced in the House of Representatives in 2007 due to a series of high-profile recalls of Chinese-made toys containing lead.

Although the updates in the reform bill don’t directly address the bicycle industry, more resources—the Act authorizes $118.2 million for the commission in 2010 and $136.4 million by 2014—could mean more enforcement.

Currently, the bicycle industry is regulated by a self-certifying process developed in the 1980s when the CPSC was languishing due to lack of funds, said Jay Townley, an industry analyst who worked on the original Consumer Product Safety Act in the 1970s as a government affairs liaison for Schwinn. The CPSC doesn’t regularly test bicycles for compliance. Instead, U.S. manufacturers or importers of bicycle products agree to self-certify that certain regulations have been met.

Because the CSPC has been underfunded during the last several presidential administrations, oversight of that process has often gone by the wayside.

That could change, Townley said, although probably not immediately.

“It’s probably going to be next year before we’re going to see much of anything, We’ve got an election. The [new] president will put new commissioners in place. Republicans will view firing up the commission differently than the Democrats. Right now is a great time for the industry to sit down and do some planning,” Townley said.

The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association and its legislative committee has kept a close watch on the legislation and plans to have a seat at the table when the CSPC enacts the new standards.

Bob Burns, Trek's legal counsel and head of the BPSA legislative committee, said it's too early to tell exactly how the law will impact the industry. Burns said he plans to attend a CSPC meeting next month to try to get a feel for how the commission will implement the new standards.

For more on how the new law could affect the industry, be sure to read the October issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

—Nicole Formosa

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