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HFPA Counsel: Feds cracking down on regs

Gary Evans -- Home Textiles Today, November 12, 2009

New York – Between the arrival a more regulatory-oriented crowd in Washington and a need to generate revenues for a battered budget, the Federal government is amping up enforcement in several areas that impact home textiles, the Home Fashion Products Associations’ counsel told members during this morning’s annual meeting.

According to Robert Leo, counsel and partner at Meeks, Sheppard, Leo & Pillsbury, the regulatory moves are coming from a number of agencies.

The Federal Trade Commission is now enforcing green and organic claims, singling out bamboo (which must be labeled as rayon) for particular scrutiny. “They will fine the company, and more importantly, they will pull the product from the shelf,” he added.

The U.S. Customs Department is also cracking down on enforcement, honing in on discrepancies and levying additional duties at ports large and small. The department is adding and training new personnel as well, he said.

“It appears they’re trying to close the budget gap all by themselves,” Leo quipped.

Although work on new flammability requirements for filled bedding – possibly to include non-filled bedding as well – has been dormant in recent months, Leo said he expects the wheels to begin turning next year.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has tabled its initiative pending the results from the State of California’s review of the matter. California’s progress stalled because it is awaiting results from a toxicity tests – also because the government is grappling with a profound budget shortfall, said Leo.

However, under a last passed last year to step up consumer safety reviews, “they’re under pressure now,” he added. It is already become more active in the matter of lead content limits in children’s products.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Lacey Act doesn’t impact textiles, suppliers importing wood products (e.g., for bath accessories) should take note, said Leo. The act makes it unlawful to import certain plants and plant productions without an import declaration identifying the name of the plant, the value of the importation, quantity of the plant and name of the country from which it was harvested.

In other government news, Leo said the HFPA has joined several other home furnishings trade organizations in supporting the Home Improvements Revitalize the Economy (HIRE) Act, a bill that would provide a tax deduction of up to $4,000 to consumers who purchase qualified home furnishings and building products. The bill is currently sitting in the Ways and Means Committee, he said.

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