Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Potential Disaster For Handmade Doll Makers Is Looming!

I don't know if you all are aware of the new CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) of 2008 or not, but because of it selling handmade dolls of any kind is about to become much more difficult - if not IMPOSSIBLE for small business handcrafters!

The CPSIA was signed into law by President Bush on 8/14/08 and has several phases to it that go into effect at different points in time. The issuance of certificates for consumer products subject to any of the rules or bans went into effect on November 12, 2008 and the Internet labeling of children's products advertised on Internet websites went into effect on December 12, 2008.

February 10, 2009 is the next effective date for several of the sections of this bill: 1) Catalog labeling for children's products advertised in catalogs or other printed materials, 2) Ban on total lead by weight set to 600 ppm for any children's product sold, 3) Phthalate ban for all toys and child care articles, and 4) Safety standards for toys that fall under the scope of ASTMF963.

The next big deadline is August 14, 2009 and it is for several sections of the bill: 1) Registration cards required for durable nursery items and promulgate standards for products intended for use by children under the age of five, 2) Ban on total lead by weight set to 300 ppm for any children's product sold, 3) Ban on lead and paint and surface coatings limit reduced to 90 ppm for any consumer product, and 4) tracking labels for any children's products.

And, the real rub - the new law requires 3rd party testing for all consumer products primarily intended for children twelve years of age or younger. Every manufacturer of a children's product must have its product tested by an accredited independent lab and if it passes issue a certificate that the product meets all the applicable Consumer Product Safety Standards.

The new law defines a "children's product" as: "A consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger. In determining whether a consumer product is intended for a child 12 years of age or younger, the following factors will be considered:

a) A statement by the manufacturer about the intended use of the product, including a label on the product if such statement is reasonable.
b) Whether the product is represented in packaging, display, promotion or advertising as appropriate for use by a child 12 years or younger.
c) Whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child 12 years of age or younger.
d) The Age Determination Guidelines issued by the Commission staff in 9/2002, and any successor to such guidelines.

As you all probably know, I have made several thousand dolls over the years - some of which have been for sale from time to time. For most of my doll pattern designs or dolls I've made based on other designers patterns I have made 1 extra handmade doll to sell. All of my dolls are and have always been labeled as intended for use by "grown-up girls" only. My disclaimer on my website states: "Please note that all of the products sold on this website are intended for home decoration only and not intended for use by children of any age."

Now you might be thinking that according to a) and b) above of the children's product definition that I don't need to be worried about the new regulations as I don't sell products intended for children. While, technically that may be true, in my opinion, I still have a problem selling my dolls.

The rub is section c) of the children's product definition that says: c) Whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child 12 years of age or younger.

I sell "dolls" for "grown-up girls" but, they are still termed "dolls" and the definition of a "doll" is according to "a small replica of a person; used as a toy," or according to "a toy in the form of a human" or "a doll is an object that represents a baby or other human being, but includes likenesses of animals and imaginary creatures. ..."

No matter how many disclaimers I put on my dolls or website "dolls" in most consumers minds are "toys" which in my opinion fall under this new act and, therefore, require them to be tested for lead by a 3rd party accredited lab.

And, under the FAQ section of the website there is the question: Does the CPSC envision stuffed animals falling within the scope of the CPSIA lead limits and Phthalate limits? The answer was: Most stuffed animals would be considered to be children's products and presumably toys. A manufacturer would need to determine whether the design of the stuffed animals is such that it is subject to the lead paint limits, the lead content limits or the phthalate limits.

I do sell some stuffed animals and if stuffed animals are considered toys then cloth dolls are not a far stretch from that.

My problem is that I didn't make hundreds of the same doll. I made thousands of OOAK or individual dolls so the expense for testing of all my products would be unbelievably prohibitive. Plus, the new law allows for any one harmed by a product that doesn't meet the standards to be sued in civil court and even allows for the states attorney generals to sue in criminal court with penalties and jail time attached.

There are thousands upon thousands of different types of dolls and crafts that could be affected by this law. And, it isn't just "dolls" or "toys" - it's ALL CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS or products deemed to be used by children. Just think about that - the scope of that is almost mind boggling.

But, the problem for me isn't just with the lead paint testing it is also with the "general conformity certificate", and the permanent tracking labels going forward. For a handcrafter of "dolls" these two issues become a logistical paperwork nightmare.

I've been watching the forums from since they issued their email about the petition and reading about all the small business handcrafters that will be affected by this law. Because of the "BROAD" definitions used within the act and the "SCOPE" of the act there will be hundreds upon thousands of handcrafters affected. It is no wonder they are calling February 10Th "National Bankruptcy Day." For many, many small business they will no longer be able to afford to stay in business after that date. Or, if they do they may be subject to civil lawsuits and/or criminal penalties and or jail terms if they are selling children's products that are not in compliance.

So, to make a long story short - Due to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 I am suspending my two Linda Walsh Originals Dolls websites and will be suspending the sale of all of my handmade dolls & crafts. I will still be creating dolls for my doll patterns and will still be selling print and e-patterns, but will suspend selling any handmade dolls & crafts that I may have made. As a result, all handmade dolls & crafts shown on my websites are now currently "Out Of Stock" and not available for purchase.

Am I distressed and bummed by this - ABSOLUTELY!

Am I disheartened - ABSOLUTELY!

Do I have the will or the resources to fight this - NO!

Disclaimer- I am not a lawyer and do not claim to be. My interpretation of this act is just that - my interpretation. In other words - "my opinion." Your interpretation and/or opinion may be different.

Posted by Linda Walsh Originals - "Doll Patterns for Grown-up Girls!"