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Monday February 29, 2016

CPSC Gives Apparel Industry Administrative Relief worth $250M/Year

CPSC members February 24 voted 5-0 to eliminate general certificates of conformity (GCCs) for some apparel made of materials exempted from flammability requirements. It is expected to save industry some $250 million a year. Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic's office developed the idea.


Exempted would be adult products for which the GCC's only purpose is to assert that the items are exempt from Flammable Fabrics Act testing under a decades-old CPSC policy that some materials are proven to be inherently fire-safe. If other requirements trigger a GCC, there would be no exemption. Additionally, the new policy includes a provision that the commission could revoke the relief if non-compliance becomes a problem.


Other commissioners praised the work by Mohorovic and his staff, including creation of what Chairman Elliot Kaye described as a briefing package similar to what agency staff would prepare. The idea arose in discussions with the American Apparel & Footwear Association about testing burdens related to children's products (although those are not included). AAFA gave input during development.


Also getting praise was the fact that the project needed minimal agency staff or resources, which are different than those for commissioners' offices. Agency staffers were involved in reviewing the idea and confirming that instituting the relief would not remove a safety protection.


Further lauded was the value of the relief, with other commissioners echoing Mohorovic's emphasis that the amount is annual versus one-time and rivals those given by larger agencies to larger industries.


In both his closing comments and a prepared statement (, Mohorovic stressed that the now-exempted GCCs met the definition of red tape as they did nothing to advance safety and merely restated an exemption previously given by CPSC for decades without paperwork. He also noted that the burden – and thus the value of relief – disproportionately affects small businesses because they are unable to achieve the shipping volumes needed to for low GCC-to-garment ratios that otherwise create savings.


Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle raised one concern: that retailers might continue asking for such certification on their own. Such action, she said, would "stymie" any relief, and she strongly discouraged it. Such "ghost requirements" by retailers are a perennial complaint by manufacturers.


CPSC's clothing textiles guide, from 2001, describes the exempted materials:



Possibility for Similar Relief Elsewhere?



Buerkle voiced, and Kaye echoed, receptiveness to hearing about similar suggestions from industry. Later, at a discussion with reporters, Kaye suggested two considerations for anyone advancing such ideas:

  • An exemption cannot diminish safety.

  • The more work done upfront, the more likely and faster CPSC can act. He pointed to the ready-for-consideration material supplied by Mohorovic as a model.

Kaye also noted a potential idea he termed "nascent." It came from Neal Cohen, who recently left his position as small business ombudsman (PSL, 2/15/16). Kaye declined to give details so as to avoid inappropriately raising hopes. Development might need to wait for Cohen's replacement.