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Greg Webb
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CPSC Prepares Online Product Safety Database

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In an effort to increase the public’s awareness of product defects and safety hazards, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will be launching SaferProducts.gov in March – an online database compiling reports and complaints regarding product safety. The database will let consumers browse and file safety complaints, as well as let manufacturers review and respond to claims that are inaccurate or false.

One of the struggles in getting the database to where it is now has been the internal debate among the commissioners as to the level of access the public should be provided. Made up of two Republicans and three Democrats, the five-person commission tasked with developing the database has been at odds; the Republican commissioners are looking to restrict reporting to consumers and individuals with first-hand knowledge of a product defect or hazard, while the Democratic commissioners are looking to give everyone full access to ensure no complaint goes overlooked and to ensure manufacturers do not escape full public scrutiny.

As the proposal stands, complaints would identify the product and manufacturer, describe the hazard, and be accompanied by contact information and an affirmation that the submitter was telling the truth. Submitter names would not be visible on the website and would only be made available to manufacturers if a submitter agreed. After a complaint is submitted, the commission would have five days to forward it to the manufacturer, who would then have ten days to respond. Claims that can be discredited or proven as confidential business information by the manufacturer can then be removed or have portions redacted by the commission.

Hopefully, for the sake of consumer safety, and promoting product safety in the United States, this program will meet with no political wrangling that utlimately prevents consumers from having all information possible available to them in order to make informed choices.

For more information about this CPSC program, visit: www.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/business/24consumer.html