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CPSC’s consumer complaint database welcome by advocates

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January 10, 2011

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Washington, DC--The National Consumers League, the nation's oldest consumer advocacy group, applauded the recent announcement of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s plan to publish consumer complaints about dangerous or defective products.

“Consumer advocates have worked for more than a decade – I did so myself when I served as Product Safety Counsel at Consumers Union – to make vital facts the CPSC receives about dangerous products available to other consumers,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “This is particularly compelling for products used by children: cribs, car seats, strollers, and swings. Parents wanting to check on the safety of a product before they buy it should absolutely have access to this database.”

While some members of the retail industry claim this database will be confusing to consumers, or unfair to manufacturers, NCL advocates argue that the CPSC’s database is simply moving the commission forward to the current era, in which consumers rate products and share information about a wide variety of industries, from travel services to product reviews. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided consumers with access to similar information and has done so for years.

“There is no justification for keeping this information from the public. It will enhance safety and empower consumers. We applaud Chairman Tenenbaum and Commissioners Adler and Moore for their support for this long-waited database,” said Greenberg.

The compilation of consumer complaints is set to be launched online in March by the CPSC. According to news reports, under the new system, when a consumer files a complaint, the CPSC has five days to notify the manufacturer, which in turn has 10 days to respond. A company can challenge the complaint as false, argue that posting it would result in revealing a trade secret, or submit a written response, which would be published alongside the complaint in the database.

If a company argues that a consumer complaint is false or discloses confidential business information, the CPSC will make a decision as to whether to withhold or publish the complaint. Anyone filing a complaint must identify themselves, but that information will not be published and would be disclosed to the manufacturer only with the consumer's permission.

The database is restricted to the 15,000 types of consumer goods overseen by the CPSC, which do not include food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, tobacco, automobiles, or tires.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.