CPSC Launches Consumer-Driven Online Database for Unsafe Products

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New product safety initiative receives mixed reviews.

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SaferProducts.gov is the home a new consumer-focused online database. A 2008 statute required the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to create the database, and the CPSC launched it on March 11, 2011.

The database aims to inform the public about hazardous products, identify product risks for the CPSC to address, and provide a forum for manufacturers to reply.

Consumers can use the database to report unsafe products and browse other product recalls and reports. The CPSC must review reports submitted by consumers within five days to determine if they are free from “materially inaccurate” information. If they are, the CPSC informs manufacturers about the report, and manufacturers have ten days to challenge the validity of the reports before the CPSC posts it online.

Consumer advocacy groups have praised the new database for providing consumers with quick access to information.

Various industry leaders have expressed concerns about the project. For example, the Consumer Specialty Products Association saidsaidhas argued that the scope of consumer reports is too broad, allowing “consumers to publish their dissatisfaction” with consumer products. The industry group also questioned the CPSC’s definition for “materially inaccurate information.”

Some members of Congress have also objected to the CPSC’s accessible database.  For example, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) has claimed that the database’s current structure makes it too easy to upload false information. He has introduced an amendment to the 2011 Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act  to withhold further funding to it.

Common Cause, a liberal advocacy group, has reportedly criticized Pompeo for simply espousing the view of a large business – Koch Industries – that is based in his district. Pompeo reportedly insists that his views arise from his experience running businesses and are shared widely by his constituents.

Pompeo and other opponents of the database also cite cost concerns. Apparently, much of its cost will be for updating the technical infrastructure that is necessary to it, but can also be used for other agency data systems. CSPC commissioners differ over whether the IT cost is part of the database cost: Chair Inez Tanenbaum reportedly put the database cost at $3 million, while Commissioner Anne Northup reportedly stated that the cost would be over $20 million because “[i]t’s impossible to separate the database money from the IT money.”