Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Toys (page 1 / 1)

We Still Don't Need to Regulate Toys

I've discussed before how toy companies are using "safety" as an excuse to pile more and more regulations on top of their competitors. Mattel has been blaming China for a recent spate of recalls and using the accusations as leverage to push for more safety regulations.

Turns out, China wasn't to blame.

Mattel Inc. made a public apology to China for damage to the country's reputation stemming from a spate of toy recalls. It was an extraordinary attempt to placate Mattel's most important supplier, but it is likely to shift the spotlight to the company's own responsibility in the crisis.

In its apology, the world's largest toy maker said its own "design flaw" was responsible for the biggest recall by far, involving around 18 million playsets studded with potentially dangerous magnets.

Oops. I'm guessing that regulation wouldn't have done much to catch Mattel's design flaws. Maybe we don't actually need regulation after all.

Dangerous Toys, Redux

Toy manufacturers want to regulate toys coming into the United States, looking for dangerous materials like lead paint. But what's the real cause of dangerous toys?

Design flaws, not Chinese manufacturing problems, are the cause of the vast majority of American toy recalls over the last two decades, according to a new study by two Canadian professors.

The study, which looked at toy-recall data going back to 1988, showed that some 76 percent of the recalls in that period involved design flaws that could result in hazards like choking or swallowing small parts, while 10 percent were caused by manufacturing flaws, like excessive levels of lead paint.

The study, written by Hari Bapuji, a professor at the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba and Paul W. Beamish, from the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, suggests that while China's manufacturing troubles were a serious problem, toy companies needed to take more responsibility for the growing number of recalls.

"I'm not saying there is no problem with Chinese manufacturing," Professor Bapuji said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I'm just saying there is a bigger problem with designs."

Sounds like regulation wouldn't help nearly as much as the big companies want you to think it would. But it would still hurt their competitors plenty.

Needless to say, I'm still opposed to the idea.

How to Legally Hurt the Competition

Mattel, Hasbro, and Lego have figured out how to use the government to hurt their competitors. They'll ask for more government regulation.

Acknowledging a growing crisis of public confidence caused by a series of recent recalls, the nation's largest toy makers have taken the unusual step of asking the federal government to impose mandatory safety-testing standards for all toys sold in the United States.

The toy manufacturers, of course, claim that they're only doing this in the interests of public safety and in reassuring the public before the Christmas shopping season. Of course, they're might be another reason.

Instead, companies would be required to hire independent laboratories to check a certain portion of their toys, whether made in the United States or overseas. Leading toy companies already do such testing, but industry officials acknowledge that it has not been enough.

... Small companies that currently do little or no testing would be required to pay for testing as well.

So, the large companies already do testing. Recent events have proven that testing isn't always enough to catch dangerous toys. No matter. They'll use the cover of recent events to force their smaller competitors to pay for testing as well. This won't necessarily do anything to improve the safety of toys, but it will do a lot to raise the manufacturing costs (and retail prices) of toys from their competitors.

How clever.

You know, if Mattel, Hasbro, and Lego believe in stronger testing, they could start doing it all by themselves, without the force of the federal government behind them. They could then run an intensive ad campaign talking about their new testing system and what they're doing to make their toys safe for children. This would accomplish their stated goals, they wouldn't have to wait for the government to act, and they could probably increase sales as well.

But it wouldn't hurt their smaller competitors like government regulation would. So, they won't do it. Government regulation -- it's just another way to say "legal mugging".