In 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received 16,000 consumer complaints. For the first time, the public will have access to those complaints within 15 days. The CPSC will make the consumer complaints public when it launches a new website in March. The site will be a database that makes important public safety information available to consumers more quickly.
Manufacturers Resist the Change
The many manufacturing companies and groups are not happy about this information going public. They argue that competitors might use the information to post inaccurate claims without giving a fair chance for manufacturers to investigate them. The companies also argue that this information might burden the already sluggish economy by hurting manufacturers’ profits.
The CPSC counters that it has already built safeguards into the reporting system that will prevent the type of abuse manufacturers worry about. The system comes out the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 signed into law by then President Bush. The law changed the way the agency investigates defective product complaints.
Lengthy Investigations Cost Lives
Previously, the CPSC collected records about defective products from information sources like health care provider reports, death certificates, media accounts, and reports filed by consumers. However, the only way for consumers to get that information was to file a public records request with the agency. The agency would work with manufacturers to investigate complaints before making the information public. The delays would prevent important safety information from reaching consumers for months and sometimes years, resulting in unnecessary injuries and deaths.
The new system lets consumers file complaints via the new Website, to be posted within 15 days. The agency sends the reports to manufacturers within five days, giving the companies 10 days to post a response, which the website will show alongside the complaint. Complaints that the agency deems unfair, stemming from quality problems, or related to liability issues will not be posted. The website discourages inaccurate reporting by requiring reporters to identify themselves before submitting a report. The site will not disclose identifying information.
Faster Reporting Will Save Lives
This new reporting system will save lives and prevent millions of dollars worth of consumer damages. For example, the problem with defective Chinese drywall took three years to investigate before the information became publicly available. Thousands of homeowners could have been spared damage to their homes. A more tragic example is that of drop-side cribs. Regulators eventually outlawed this configuration, but only after several infant deaths occurred. Many deaths could have been prevented had the information been available within 15 days of the first infant death.
The CPSC site will report on the 15,000 types of consumer goods the agency oversees. This will not include food, medications, Medical Devices, cosmetics, tobacco, cars, or tires, all of which other government agencies oversee. After March 11, consumers can visit the web site at www.saferproducts.gov.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries because of a defective product, contact our office. We will provide a free consultations and fight to secure the compensation you justly deserve.