By: Staff Writers | Published: March 14th, 2011
Federal regulators have launched a new product safety website where consumers will be able search a database of products that have been identified as having potential safety issues and file new reports about problems they have experienced.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) officially launched the SaferProducts.gov website on March 11. However, the future of this database may already be in jeopardy as some Republican lawmakers are attempting to shut it down.
Required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the database collects defect reports and product recall announcements onto one website for public access. In addition, consumers can write up a report on devices they have found to be defective or to have caused an adverse effect and then submit those reports to the CPSC for review. Reports that are deemed valid will be posted to the website and will be searchable by other consumers in a little more than two weeks after being submitted.
“I believe that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a press release. “The ability for parents and consumers to search this database for incidents involving a product they already own or are thinking of purchasing will enable them to make independent decisions aimed at keeping their family safe.”
The prominent consumer advocacy group Public Citizen lauded the database launch as a “great day for consumer safety” in a statement issued on March 11 by Christine Hines, the nonprofit watchdog group’s consumer and civil justice counsel.
However, Public Citizen is warning that the future of access to the information may already be in jeopardy, as House Republicans voted to cut funding for the database two weeks before the website was launched.
The effort to shut down SaferProducts.gov is being led by Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, whose district is home to Koch Industries, an oil, manufacturing and trade conglomerate. Koch Industries was Pompeo’s top campaign contributor. The company owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cubs, Stainmaster carpets, Georgia-Pacific Lumber and is one of the largest privately owned companies in the United States.
The CPSC has been registering businesses on the website since late January. Businesses can go to the website and see what reports have been filed on their products or have those reports e-mailed to them. Each business gets 10 days to respond to any consumer complaint before it is published online. Reports that the CPSC determines are invalid will not be posted.
About 1,500 comments by consumers were accepted, processed and posted before the website launch. New consumer reports will likely begin appearing in early April, the CPSC estimates.