Bored Regulators Decide To Regulate Christmas Lights


With apparently nothing else to do with their time, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued 11 pages of new regulations on Christmas lights and other holiday decorations calling them “a substantial product hazard” that all of a sudden require consumer protections and warnings.

According to the CPSC, the agency:

“…is issuing a final rule to specify that seasonal and decorative lighting products that do not contain any one of three readily observable characteristics (minimum wire size, sufficient strain relief or overcurrent protection), as addressed in a voluntary standard, are deemed a substantial product hazard under the Consumer Product Safety Act.”

The once voluntary standards, developed by the independent non-government group Underwriters Laboratories in the 1990s, are now official, mandatory and enforceable
regulations. Products that violate the imposed safety characteristics can now be stopped at ports or prevented from being distributed without testing.

If Christmas lights do not comply with the now mandatory standards, consumers can be “seriously injured or killed by electrical shocks or fires” according to the Commission which said 258 deaths that have occurred as a result of dangerous holiday lights since 1980 – over 35 years.

No deaths were caused by Christmas lights in 2014 and one has been caused by holiday decorations so far in 2015 leading critics to ask: why now? Those who oppose mandatory standards say the rules “represent government waste, government overreach, or would result in a ‘waste of money.’”

Naturally, regulators are in the business of regulating and the Commission said imposing mandatory standards, which take effect on June 3, would protect consumers from “unreasonable” risks of injury or death.

“This allows us to leverage private sector success by giving our border inspectors a screening tool to keep out the tiny fraction of products that don’t comply, preventing injuries and deaths that the voluntary standard has shown are entirely preventable,” said CPSC commissioner Joe Mohorovic.

Diane Katz, a research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation, disagrees saying “This is regulating for the convenience and power of regulators—not for public safety.”