On May 24, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish a publicly available consumer product safety information database. When it goes live on SaferProducts.gov in 2011, the database will provide a mechanism for consumers to provide the CPSC with reports of harm involving consumer products. Submitters would be required to identify such harm and the product involved by manufacturer name and model, provide a description of incident, verify the accuracy of submitted information, and give permission for inclusion of the report in the public database or release of their contact information to the manufacturer. Manufacturers/private labelers, in turn, would have the ability to provide their own comments to the CPSC to be included alongside the report of harm in the database.
The goal of the database is laudable – to increase consumers' access to information about the products they purchase and use. And while it appears the CPSC has tried to incorporate safeguards in the rule to ensure that the information contained in the database is true and accurate, there is no guarantee this will be the case. Could the proposed database become so large and unwieldy as to ultimately render it useless for consumers? How will the CPSC minimize the many potential avenues for misuse/abuse of the information contained in the database? Will Congress ensure that the CPSC has the staff and financial resources to adequately manage and maintain the database? These are questions worth exploring.