Federal Overreach And The Targeting Small Businesses Selling Baby Products

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I just posted about the poor way the federal government handled an unnecessary banning of cribs with drop-down rails. A Mommyish reader sent me a link to another example of regulatory overreach. And since it’s Independence Day here in the United States, a day we remember how our country’s founders explained their grievances with an unjust government, I want to highlight it here.

It turns out that even when the Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t recall a product, it can still destroy a business. That’s what happened to a small business that made slings for babywearing. Several years ago, a child died after being carried in a baby sling manufactured and sold by a particular company.

The feds investigated but were unable to find a link between the product and the baby’s death. But in 2010, the company was recontacted by a bureaucrat at the agency who said all infant deaths in slings were being reinvestigated. That bureaucrat told the small business owner that a recall was likely but that an investigation would take place first. In the meantime, the business owner was told she had to immediately stop sales until the investigation was completed. So she complied with the federal directive and pulled down her website — the primary means by which her product was marketed — and stopped sales. A date was set for the feds to come in and watch the business owner destroy her products but they waited until the recall was official. Literally weeks went by. And then guess what happened.

That’s right, the company got an email stating that their product was fine and would not face recall. Eight months later.

And since that was their only product, they in no way could keep the company going. They laid off all of their employees and defaulted on their Small Business Administration loan.

Commissioner Nancy Nord writes:

This incident raises a number of important issues. For example, if we have not determined that a product contains a defect or is a substantial product hazard, are we justified in recalling it, based only on the fact that it is associated with a death or serious injury? When is it appropriate to “require” a stop sale during an investigation? Obviously, the answers to these questions need to be made on the basis of the facts in each individual case. As the circumstances of this case demonstrate, an across-the-board inflexible rule does not make the most sense. This incident also illustrates the need for the agency, once it opens an investigation, to manage that investigation to conclusion in an efficient manner.

At the end of the day we did not find a problem warranting a recall with this particular product. I suspect this small business person did find a problem with our work product.

Consumer safety is not advanced by such a result. And all the words about wanting to help small business will not give these people back their jobs.

Well that’s an understatement.

And what happens to the bureaucrats who royally messed this up? Do they lose their jobs? Or do they get their annual step increases, promotions and raises? And this, my friends, is why people are so upset with the overreach of their federal government. It’s not just that they don’t think things through and end up destroying lives and careers as a result. It’s that there’s basically no accountability for such messups.