CPSC Plans Searchable Product Database

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in a majority 3-to-2 vote, will begin work on a new searchable database expected to be operational next March, said The Associated Press (AP). The database—SaferProducts.gov—will provide information on thousands of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">consumer products at a cost of about $20 million.

The new database will also give the agency a large technology boost and was part of the 2008 product safety law pushed for by Congress, said the AP. The database was called for following a series of toy recalls over lead level violations and is scheduled for implementation next March, said the AP.

Industry and the two Republicans on the CPSC have some apprehension saying, quoted the AP: “Our primary concern is that information might be provided to the public which is not accurate or which might even be malicious,” said Carter Keithley, president of the Toy Industry Association. The Association represents over 530 toy makers and importers. “The damage that could be done to a company’s reputation and sales could be irreparable,” Keithley added, reported the AP.

Advocates disagree. “Consumers will no longer be operating in the dark,” said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel at the Consumer Federation of America, quoted the AP. “The database will provide consumers with critical information that is not currently available,” added Weintraub.

Today, the CPSC’s Web site enables consumers to search its recall section for items that have already been recalled for safety concerns, said the AP; however, the new database will also provide injury complaints and complaints about possible dangers which are filed with the CPSC by “consumers, safety groups, health care professionals, and others,” said the AP. That information could lead to recalls and could be viewable by consumers prior to action taken to issue a recall, said the AP. The database will also enable the agency to look at trends and targets, said the AP.

We have often written about the flaws the process for how dangerous consumer products are recalled. Quite simply, recalls are only as good as the information provided and the follow-up action taken. If someone in the purchasing chain—consumers, retailers, and resellers—does not receive the appropriate information and cannot act on it, a dangerous, recalled product can end up in a consumer’s possession.

Also, said the AP, the law that created the CPSC in the 1970s provides a notification process that critics argue does not provide adequate safety to consumers. The process can create a situation in which the CPSC cannot release information about dangerous products due to the 6(b) provision of the Consumer Product Safety Act, said the AP. This provision—unique to the CPSC—mandates it advise a manufacturer before it discloses concerns about products and companies, said the AP. The company then has 15 days to respond, said the AP, which can further slow the process of notifying the public about dangerous consumer products.

Because the 6(b) provisions is not applicable to the new database, “The database has the potential to create a new generation of consumers educated about product hazards in and around their homes,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, quoted the AP. Once a complaint is, the agency must provide the manufacturer with the information, allowing 10 days to respond.

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