The Consumer Products Safety Commission has announced that it will set up an online database of safety reports it has received from the public. The site, which will be available at saferproducts.gov, is slated to go live on March 11.
This initiative is being undertaken to comply with the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008, passed by Congress in August of that year and signed into law by President Bush. Among other things, the Act requires the inspector general to assess and report to specified congressional committees on the Commission's capital improvement efforts, including improvements and upgrades of the CPSC's information technology architecture and systems, and development of the database of publicly available information on incidents involving injury or death.
The Washington Post notes that many consumer advocates have hailed the database as an information resource that can have a profound effect on the way in which consumers make purchasing decisions. At the same time, the Post reports, a number of industry groups have expressed concern about the potential for abuse that can arise if evilly disposed parties are able to submit spurious complaints.
Rosario Palmieri of the National Association of Manufacturers said, "We're not opposed to a database. We're opposed to a database that's full of inaccurate information." CPSC officials contend that they have built-in safeguards to prevent abuses of this sort.
The CPSC collects reports of defective products from many sources, including healthcare providers, news stories and death certificates, as well as consumers. To date, however, it was necessary to file a public-records request with the Commission to gain access to a report. CPSC has in turn to consult with the affected manufacturer before releasing the information.
Under the new system, a complaint filed by a consumer will be posted on the database within 15 days for anyone to read.
One bulk supplier told VT that he does not believe that a database poses a substantial threat to the industry. For one thing, bulk vending merchandise is not brand-identified the way power tools are.
What manufacturers should be concerned about, he said, is compliance with the much more stringent toy testing and tracking provisions of the law. "I do not believe that the bulk vending industry can sustain another large recall," he said.