There's a new way to alert the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the public, about products that could be dangerous. It's a website just launched by the CPSC, www.SaferProducts.gov
, where anyone can file a report or look up safety information about a product.
In Seattle, consumer protection attorney Maria Diamond sees the new site as not just for consumers' benefit. She says it's also a way for the CPSC to find out earlier about potential safety issues in the marketplace.
"Unfortunately, until now there really wasn't a good way for the CPSC to identify hazards quickly and efficiently. They'd find out through the litigation process, which I think everyone would agree is not the way things should work."
Diamond notes the CPSC is a relatively small agency responsible for monitoring the safety of thousands of products, including toys, cribs and children's clothing. She thinks the new website will allow it to do a better job and provide information faster. However, there are a lot of product categories the CPSC doesn't cover, and some people are concerned that the database will contain information only about defects that result in injuries or deaths, not complaints about products' reliability or quality.
The new site almost didn't make it onto the Internet. Some Republican congressmen wanted to cut its funding, saying there would be no way to prevent false or misleading reports, which could harm companies' reputations. But Diamond says there are filters built into the new website to prevent that.
"You can't have anonymous complaints. The complaints have to be safety-related. And there's notice to the manufacturers and they have an opportunity to correct information and provide comment."
She says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already has a similar public database for automotive complaints.
The CPSC says reports filed this week on the website will show up as part of the database in April.