Congress’ 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act mandates the creation of a searchable product safety database. The public database is being developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and will be accessed through the website www.saferproducts.gov. It will provide a centralized reporting mechanism for consumers to lodge legitimate complaints about specific consumer products and will serve as a safety research tool.
Why the Need For a Product Safety Database?
For almost three decades, manufacturers have controlled the distribution of consumer product safety information. Unless the manufacturer consents, the CPSC cannot release brand-specific safety information without a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request.
Such secrecy has prevented consumers from making researched purchasing decisions and kept product users in the dark about potential dangers. Consumers are generally not alerted to product safety issues until product recalls are announced. Unfortunately, a recall is usually not issued until after several safety incidents have already occurred.
For example, Consumer Reports recounted receiving numerous complaints in 2008 about the Perfect Flame gas grill melting, catching fire or causing burns. After the 2009 recall of the grills, Consumer Reports discovered the CPSC had received reports of 63 fires and 21 burn injuries related to the product before the recall was issued. But because of strict information distribution rules, consumers had no way of knowing the danger without the recall or after their own accident or injury.
How Will the Database Impact Consumers and Safety Concerns?
The public database will shift control of information from manufacturers to consumers. Consumers will be able to evaluate products before purchasing them and decide if they will continue to use them based on the experiences of others. No longer will consumers be kept in the dark about the risks associated with products they bring into their homes or use in their communities.
Manufacturers will be under more scrutiny for defects and safety hazards. Gone will be the days of blissful ignorance about product safety. This added scrutiny will hopefully speed up the flow of information to manufacturing decision makers and result in safer products for all consumers right from the start.