Product Liability

Lawmakers use budget cuts in attempt to kill new consumer safety database

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s first public database of consumer product safety complaints, scheduled to launch this month, could be killed by federal budget cuts before it gets off the ground. Part of the website, the new database is to offer American consumers an easier way to look up safety information on thousands of consumer products as well as facilitate filing reports and complaints about potentially dangerous products with the CPSC.

But like so many other things intended to help consumers, the database has been criticized as anti-business by some legislators because, they assert, it would be filled with fictitious and inaccurate claims that could hurt U.S. businesses, increase costs for consumers, and drive jobs overseas.

The CPSC says that the proper safeguards are in place to prevent abuse and slander, and that manufacturers will have the opportunity to respond to consumer complaints and may request that their comments appear with the report in the database. Also, the database is restricted to safety complaints only. It will not contain complaints and other information regarding product quality or reliability. All information will be balanced between consumer and corporate interests.

“If a mom uses the search function on the site, sees a series of reports of harm about a product she bought for her child and decides to take the product away from her child, while, behind the scenes, we are working to finalize a recall, that is a good thing in my opinion,” CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum said last week in a speech before an international consumer product safety organization.

“There’s a lot of support for the database, but we don’t know how the dynamic is ultimately going to play out,” Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for Consumer Federation of America, told the Washington Post. “This is really a last-ditch effort by manufacturers to hold on to this great situation they have right now, where information is not getting out to the public.”

Still, Mike Pompeo, a freshman Republican congressman from Kansas, won support from his GOP colleagues for a budget amendment that withholds funding for the database, which is scheduled to launch March 11. The spending bill that included the amendment passed the house on Feb. 19.

The database was created at a cost of $3 million.