Buying Promotional Products: A Guide to Federal Safety Laws

Buying promotional products that comply with federal safety laws is important because compliant and safe products protect American children and families from harm.

Bob's Beach RentalsIf you are a “supplier” or “distributor” of promotional products, you must understand and comply with important federal consumer product safety laws, especially if you are promoting or decorating your products in a manner in which they appear to be designed or intended primarily for children 12 years old or younger.  

 

Why should you comply with federal safety laws?  Compliance is important: (1) to protect the safety of American consumers; (2) to protect your company, your brand, and your customers; and (3) because it’s the law.  Failure to follow these laws puts you and your customers at risk. 

 

You have important responsibilities under federal law.

In the promotional products industry, companies that traditionally import or manufacture generic products that are “undecorated” with logos or marketing are called “suppliers.”  The companies that traditionally sell and deliver these finished products “decorated” with logos or marketing to final customers, usually businesses and organizations, are called “distributors.”   Each party in the supply chain has important responsibilities.  One very important responsibility is the duty that every party in the supply chain has to report to CPSC products that violate federal consumer product safety laws and regulations, products that have a product defect that could cause a substantial product hazard, or products that create an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.  Learn more at: www.cpsc.gov/reporting.

 

What are children’s products?  Why is that category so important in the promotional products industry?

A “children’s product” is any item that is designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger.  Children’s products have important safety regulations covering certain substances, such as lead, and, depending on the intended age of the consumer, a children’s product may have to comply with additional regulations addressing other hazards, such as small parts.  Toys must comply with additional requirements. 

 

This category of “children’s products” is particularly important in the promotional products industry.  If, for example, a decoration is added to an undecorated item like a piece of drinkware, and the decoration is designed or intended primarily to appeal to a child 12 years of age or younger, the decoration can “transform” the product from a “non-children’s product” into a “children’s product.”  Even though a change in artwork on the product may appear to a distributor to be a “small” change, the change could have important implications for the consumer’s safety and for a company’s compliance with federal laws. 

 

In determining whether a product is a children’s product, CPSC staff considers several factors, including a product’s marketing, the common recognition of the product as a children’s product by consumers, the manufacturer’s stated intent, if reasonable, and additional factors, as described at: www.cpsc.gov/childrensproduct.  

 

Who is responsible for compliance with children’s product regulations?

Importers and manufacturers of finished children’s products are responsible for complying with children’s product regulations.   In the promotional products industry, the “distributor,” the “supplier,” or both, may be responsible, depending upon the business, legal, and practical arrangements of decorating, producing, and selling the finished children’s product.  For example, if you are a “supplier” and import a “finished” children’s promotional product, like a toy car, you are the responsible party that must comply with the applicable regulations for that toy car.  However, if you are a “distributor” and you – at your client’s direction – direct the final production of a “blank” general use product into a “children’s product” (for example, through the addition of artwork designed or intended primarily to appeal to a child 12 years of age or younger), then you are the responsible party that must comply with the applicable regulations, such as any lead in the ink or paint used to decorate the product.  The facts and circumstances of who in the supply chain “finished” the children’s product will dictate who the responsible party is.  All parties in the supply chain should understand the requirements and work to ensure compliance with applicable federal laws. 

 

What must your company do to comply with children’s product regulations?

You must have your children’s consumer product tested at certain stages in the process by a CPSC-accepted laboratory for compliance with certain requirements.  What are those requirements?  The requirements vary by product, by what age consumer the product is intended for, and by the materials used to manufacture your product.

 

Some of the key requirements for the promotional products industry are requirements for elements like lead in inks and paints used to decorate the surface of items.   Separately, children’s products must comply with limits on the lead content in metal or plastic pieces, such as zipper pulls on items like backpacks or sweatshirts and the plastic in children’s toys.   If you are screen printing children’s items, the screen print inks must be third party tested and must comply with certain requirements, such as lead content and, for items like toys, bibs, and sleepwear, phthalate content.  And, if you are screen printing wearing apparel, the apparel must also be tested and must comply with flammability standards for wearing apparel.

 

Based on passing third party test results, you must certify your product as compliant by issuing a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC). The law requires that each import (and domestically manufactured) shipment be "accompanied" by the required certificate.   Under CPSC regulations, an electronic certificate is "accompanying" a shipment if the certificate is identified by a unique identifier and can be accessed via a World Wide Web URL or other electronic means (provided that the URL and the unique identifier were created in advance) and are available with the shipment.  You must also provide access to the CPC to the retailer, distributor, and to the government, although no government filing is required.  See: http://www.cpsc.gov/BusinessEducation for more information. 

 

Is on-product labeling required for children’s products?

Yes.  A children’s product and its packaging should have permanent markings affixed, identifying the manufacturer, date and place of manufacture, and a tracking code, if practicable.  Many promotional product manufacturers mark their products with a website URL that contains the tracking information and the manufacturer’s name; this is acceptable to the CPSC.  Learn more at: www.cpsc.gov/trackinglabel