Cordless Standard for ‘Stock’ Window Blinds to Proceed

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By Martina Barash

Window-blind makers have voted to pursue a voluntary safety standard calling for about three-quarters of products to go cordless in an effort to reduce a child strangulation hazard, people familiar with the process said Feb. 14.

Off-the-shelf or “stock” window coverings would operate without cords under the proposed standard approved Feb. 10, but custom-made products could have them. Safety groups consider the proposal less stringent than another that was under consideration.

The blind makers chose that standard by a lopsided vote, according to Paul Nathanson of Bracewell LLC in Washington.

Nathanson works with the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, a trade group whose members include some of the largest stock and custom makers, including Hunter Douglas Inc. and Springs Window Fashions LLC.

The 14–2 vote comes as product technology has advanced in recent years. Meanwhile, the prospect of a mandatory rule remains on the table, Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said in a recent interview.

Window blind strangulation has been a persistent problem going back decades, according to the safety commission and consumer advocates.

Rolled Out Quickly.

Advocates of the “stock-custom” proposal say about three-quarters of the current blind market would go cordless under it, the standard could be rolled out quickly and seniors and others who need corded products would still have a good selection of options.

But a size-based standard that was under consideration would have been more effective than the proposal that allows custom-made blinds to have cords, safety advocate Linda Kaiser of Parents for Window Blind Safety told Bloomberg BNA.

The “stock-custom” distinction will be “hard to implement and police,” she said. Some top retailers, including The Home Depot Inc., were also critical of the proposal in advance of the vote.

Consumer groups, including Kaiser’s, haven’t decided on any steps to take in response to the manufacturers’ decision, according to Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel at Consumer Federation of America.

Within the voluntary standard process, a “canvass body” made up of various stakeholders will have a chance to vote on the proposal. That group includes manufacturers, retailers, government representatives, consumer groups and others.

But Weintraub and Kaiser don’t see that vote as providing a meaningful alternative to the direction chosen by the product makers.

“While there are other entities” who will be voting, “they are far outvoted by manufacturers and others who are part of WCMA,” Weintraub said.

“It’s pretty much out of our hands as consumer groups,” Kaiser said.

“Even though it’s not what we want and there are flaws in it, we do have to say the manufacturers have made some progress from where they have been in the past,” she said. “And so now it’s just: What’s going to happen next, how is this going to affect the death rate for children on products that are manufactured now?”

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at MBarash@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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