BJ’s Wholesale Club, the third-biggest U.S. warehouse club operator in terms of revenue and number of locations, has stopped selling to online customers in California. According to information gathered, the club was not sure if the products it sells meet the updated labeling requirements in Proposition 65, the state’s law on chemical exposure warning.
The law requires that products that contain chemicals that can harm the reproductive system or cause cancer shall provide warnings on the labels or on signs. Around 900 substances are on the list.
The stores of BJ’s Wholesale Club are mostly on the East Coast. It has no store or business site in California. The company also confirmed its temporary decision not sell products to customers in California but did not say why.
However, BJ’s customer services representative told Chemical Watch on the wholesale club’s chat portal that the company has stopped selling to customers in California due to the warnings required in Proposition 65.
According to the customer services representative, their products that contain any of the listed chemicals over the allowable limits are not labeled according to the requirements in Proposition 65. So, temporarily, they don’t sell to California customers.
There was no official confirmation but it appears that BJ’s have taken steps to comply with the amended warning law that took effect last August 30. The changes specifically obliged online retailers to warn potential buyers that the product may expose them to a harmful substance listed in Prop 65. The law also requires that the retailer should provide a ‘clear and reasonable warning’ before that consumer pays for the product.
BJ’s decision is being watched with interest because California is a big market to lose. California’s economy is bigger than the UK’s. It is ranked fifth in the world. BJ’s did not say why it chose to stop selling instead of complying with the warning requirement. Other points of interest are, how the decision will affect the company’s revenue and when will it sell into California again.
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is the California agency which directs the implementation of the law. According to Sam Delson, OEHHA’s deputy director for external and legislative affairs, the amendments did not change the criteria to determine if a warning is needed or not. They are still the same since 1986 when Proposition 65 was enacted. The amendments were only on the way a clear warning must be provided.
BJ’s is not the only company that stopped selling their products in California. Delson says that sometimes he gets information from consumers that a certain company cites Proposition 65 as the reason why it no longer sells a particular product to California.
Delson added that usually, the products are health or nutritional supplements. He made it clear that Prop 65 does not restrict or ban any products. If companies decide not to sell instead of providing the required warning, it’s their choice.
There is still an ongoing debate over the effectiveness of the law. The American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry trade association called Prop 65 an “unmitigated disaster” during the conference in Boston on Safer Chemicals in Products.
However, the supporters of the law and OEHHA say that it has resulted in important reformulations that reduced exposure to hazardous chemicals in many products.