database represents an increase in visibility and authority for the CPSC which

Database represents an increase in visibility and

This preview shows page 14 - 16 out of 19 pages.

database represents an increase in visibility and authority for the CPSC, which was formed in 1972 by the Consumer Product Safety Act. The role of the CPSC is to regulate thousands of different types of products, with special focus on those that are not regulated by other areas of the government already, like food, firearms, and automobiles. (The CPSC database does not include safety problems with these products.) The CPSC collects reports on defective products from consumers, health care providers, death certificates, media accounts, and other sources. It uses that information to make decisions on product recalls and bans, but until recently, very little of that information was accessible to the public. Federal law formerly required the approval of manufacturers to publicize that information, and manufacturers weren’t eager to release information about their faulty products. Not only that, but the CPSC had to negotiate directly with manufacturers to determine the terms of product recalls. Because this process usually takes a year or more, consumers continue to buy shoddy and perhaps dangerous products like drop- side cribs in the interim. Under the new system, complaints filed by consumers will be posted online and be available to the public within 15 days. Companies will be notified within 5 days when complaints are made about their products, and the CPSC will give them 10 days to respond publicly and have their comments published alongside the complaints in the database. Users will have the option for their comments to remain confidential if they prefer. Manufacturers will be able to appeal to the CPSC to eliminate false or misleading complaints, and complaints will be limited to defects that can cause injury, not reliability or product quality. At a time when the federal budget is under increased scrutiny, programs like the CPSC database have become targets for cost-cutting, and manufacturers have seized an opportunity to stop the database in its tracks. The law gave CPSC new authority to regulate unsafe products but businesses say it is overly burdensome. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is considering draft legislation to restrict who can submit reports to the database, to improve how products are identified, and to resolve claims that reports are inaccurate. Despite strong opposition from manufacturers and others, in March 2011, the site was launched to generally positive reviews. The CPSC provided additional features, like the ability to attach images to comments. Commenters must provide their name, mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail address, which is expected to curtail the types of anonymous comments that manufacturers fear. Even so, keeping the database free of inaccurate reports is likely to require more time and hours than the CPSC staff will be able to provide. Since the database went live, there have been hundreds of thousands of visits to the site
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and millions of product searches conducted by visitors, according to the Consumer Product Safety commission. Despite its growing popularity, it may not survive congressional attempts to take away its funding, in response to pressures to reduce the federal budget as well as criticism from the business community. Time will tell whether saferproducts.gov becomes an
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