President's Letter - January 2009

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As we turn the calendar page to a new year, I bring you greetings and good wishes from the Toy Fair in Hong Kong!

2008 was a year of extraordinary events . . . many of which will have their greatest impact in the coming months as the requirements of the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) become effective for all companies in the toy industry.

TIA - WORKING TO ALLEVIATE ADVERSE IMPACTS OF THE CPSIA

During the first half of 2008, TIA was heavily involved in advocating for sound federal legislation that would prevent the proliferation of different state regulations affecting toys. Following approval of the CPSIA in August, we have been very active in addressing specific concerns relating to the implementing regulations. I am pleased to report that we have successfully influenced a number of critically important changes and interpretations that will eliminate or reduce the unintended consequences of the legislation:

We obtained significant relief and clarity in the CPSC’s recently proposed rules providing exemptions from the lead standard for inaccessible parts and electronics. 
We have recommended common sense approaches for proposed civil penalty criteria, and for the cautionary warnings that must accompany catalogues and internet advertising. 
We succeeded in obtaining CPSC approval of Internet-based solutions for the new certification requirements.
Our strategy during the 2008 holiday shopping season was to focus our influence on targeted audiences with private meetings and correspondence. We avoided any public debate that could challenge our industry’s commitment to toy safety or negatively influence retail sales in an already difficult economy. With the holiday season behind us and Congress returning to work, our advocacy efforts have increased significantly. Additional comments have been submitted to the CPSC; grassroots and media efforts have increased; and lobbying efforts directed at the returning Congress have been ramped up. We are seeking a delay in the February 10, 2009 effective date for lead requirements or a reversal of the CPSC General Counsel’s opinion on the retroactive applicability for lead content in existing inventory. We are also seeking additional relief in the form of information, guidance, and exemptions from the CPSC.

Our outreach efforts to date have included:

  • Meetings with President-elect Obama’s transition team to brief them on CPSC/CPSIA matters;
  • Meetings with Congressional staff to discuss committee changes and status of a proposed CPSIA hearing to be organized by Representative Rush (D-IL);
  • Facilitation of a petition jointly signed by TIA, the National Association of Manufacturers, and 33 other leading industry groups requesting rules to reduce the burden on industry;
  • Encouragement of other Associations and Coalitions to contact CPSC and Congress to seek relief from unwarranted and burdensome requirements; and
  • Mobilizing TIA members to write thousands of letters to Congress and the CPSC.

Moving forward, we will be:

  • Meeting with the new House and Senate committee leadership;
  • Preparing for a possible House hearing with Representative Rush and his committee;
  • Encouraging the House Small Business Committee hearing to consider the CPSIA’s impact on small companies;
  • Investigating the feasibility of a TIA member “Washington, DC Fly-In” to lobby members of Congress before the February 10, 2009 implementation date; 
  • Submitting further comments on the remaining phthalates, testing and lead issues;
  • Issuing additional grassroots “Call to Action” campaigns to solicit letters from members of Congress to CPSC requesting immediate guidance and prospective implementation of lead/phthalate requirements; and
  • Capitalizing on media-outreach efforts to put the toy industry’s messages before target audiences.

In addition to the outreach activities related to the approaching February 10 deadlines, TIA is developing a longer-term federal advocacy strategy for 2009 and beyond. Further, we are working with our state lobbyists to develop plans that will help to prepare and position TIA and the industry for another busy year at the state level.

INFORMATION AND SUPPORT FOR TOY COMPANIES

TIA also will continue its efforts to alleviate the impacts of the CPSIA on your businesses, and to provide you with the information you need to comply with the final rules. You may have already seen that our first two CPSIA-related Safety Bulletins of the year were sent on January 5 and 6 and our first two Action Alerts were issued yesterday and today (January 12 and 13).

Another way that we are helping the industry comply with CPSIA is the continued development of TIA’s Toy Safety Certification ProgramSM, which will launch in phases throughout 2009.

  • TIA Toy Safety Certification ProgramSM (TSCP)
    As you know, the CPSIA requires that CPSC initiate a program for manufacturers to label product as compliant and to establish protocols and standards for ongoing compliance. Historically, the Commission has recognized industry-created compliance programs rather than imposing its own. TIA’s TSCP offers a system that is effective with testing at a reasonable level. The TSCP’s electronic self-certification capability, which meets CPSIA General Certification of Conformity requirements, will launch later this month.

    We presented an overview of the full TSCP to nearly 100 TIA members at the 2009 Hong Kong Toy Fair on January 8; we will offer another overview at Toy Fair in New York on February 16.

    While in Hong Kong, we also met with representatives of the Hong Kong- and China-based toy producers and local government officials to talk about the requirements of the CPSIA and the urgency of implementing an industry-driven mechanism to assure reliable conformance with the requirements of the new Act with the minimum cost burden on industry. Representatives of major toy brands joined with TIA leadership in the meetings and participated in our discussion of how TIA’s TSCP will help to accomplish the testing and certification requirements in the most cost-efficient manner. Chinese manufacturers and representatives of the Chinese governmental safety authorities spoke at length about their concerns regarding the practicality of the program. There was agreement among all parties that the program must achieve cost reductions by eliminating redundant testing in order to be embraced by the industry. Representatives of the Chinese factories will be appointed as liaisons to work with TIA on the refinement of the program.

  • Coordination of Global Toy Industry Efforts
    Also in Hong Kong, the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) hosted a meeting of toy company CEOs from around the world to discuss the potential for better coordination of advocacy efforts on the harmonization of global safety standards, challenges and opportunities relating to environmentalism, and potential restrictions on marketing to children. It was agreed that the global nature of the toy industry, and the tendency for regulatory initiatives in one region to migrate to other regions, argues strongly for such coordination. The CEOs agreed to continue the dialogue and to work toward better coordination among the toy industry trade associations around the world.
    This is only a high-level overview of issues facing stakeholders in the toy industry. For more information on any of the topics introduced above, please log on to the TIA website or the TSPC website, or contact a member of the TIA membership team to learn how you can add your voice to our efforts and take advantage of the compliance assistance we provide. Collectively, we can achieve a good outcome and make 2009 a better year.

I look forward to seeing you at Toy Fair ’09 and the Toy Fair Safety Seminar in New York City next month!

Sincerely,


Carter Keithley