No Holds: Commissioner Reveals Workings of Consumer Safety Agency
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When it comes to adhering to the President’s Executive Order on regulatory review, many agencies within the administration may be slacking, but none more so than the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), according to an official from that agency.
“If CPSC is at all typical of what is happening at other agencies, then we all need to be concerned,” CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord warned attendees at theU.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform's 13th annual summit.
Nord, appointed to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2005, completes her term on October 26th but will continue as a commissioner until her successor is appointed. A former acting chairman of the commission, Nord acknowledged that the President’s Executive Order does not technically apply to independent regulatory agencies, however, such agencies generally try to adhere to such an order. But not CPSC, Nord charged.
The CPSC is failing at both tasks outlined in the president’s Executive Order: using cost-benefit analysis in writing new regulations and developing a plan to review and fix regulations. “The point of these tasks is to ensure that agencies pursue their missions while creating an environment where the economy and jobs can grow and thrive. My agency’s failure to do any of these tasks jeopardizes that goal,” Nord said.
Nord said she has repeatedly requested that the agency do cost-benefit analysis on proposed regulations only to have that request voted down amidst charges that cost-benefit analysis just prolongs the process and causes “paralysis by analysis.” “This means that rules get rushed out, and they may impose burdens without commensurate safety benefits,” Nord said.
As for a review of outdated regulations, Nord said the agency is only conducting two reviews that she described as “regulatory housekeeping,” including restating the commission’s animal testing policy and reviewing a rule on toy cap guns.
Meanwhile, the CPSC “has been pushing out regulations that burden businesses and cut down on consumer choices.” In many cases, the CPSC is taking actions that put small companies out of business. Nord pointed to an ongoing case involving Buckyballs, magnetic adult desk products. In July, the CSPC issued its first stop-sale order in 11 years, saying the magnetic toys “pose a substantial risk of injury to the public,” after cases of children misusing the product and injuring themselves arose.
This rare move of filing an administrative complaint on an adult novelty item without reaching a full conclusions about the potential hazards of the product has basically resulted in a mandatory recall of the product and is threatening to put the small, New York-based company out of business, Nord said.
Nord pointed out that the CPSC has other tools at its disposal that would have been more effective in the Buckyballs case, including requiring warnings or changing the packaging.
“We are issuing regulations without having done the necessary work to understand the impact of our actions both on those being regulated and on the public. As a result we have imposed regulatory burdens and caused people to lose their livelihoods without a real payback in terms of safety,” Nord said.