CPSC: A Database With Bad Data for Consumers

By March 5, 2008Briefly Legal

From an op-ed in today’s USA Today, “Don’t Confuse Consumers,” by Rosario Palmieri, the National Association of Manufacturers’ vice president of regulatory policy

Proposed database could unduly alarm the public, harm companies.

America’s manufacturers are committed to ensuring that consumers can be confident that the products they buy are the safest in the world.

That’s why the National Association of Manufacturers supported the bipartisan Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act that passed the House last December, and why we support the provisions in the Senate Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Reform Act that improve product safety in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, the Senate bill also contains several provisions, including the creation of a “public database” that will do nothing for product safety and instead confuse and mislead consumers.

The Senate provision would require the CPSC to devote significant money and staff resources to maintain a database that in reality would contain massive amounts of inaccurate, unverified, extraneous and self-interested information.

Advocates of the database often equate it to one maintained by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, unlike the NHTSA database, which classifies only consumer complaints regarding motor vehicles by make, model and year, the Senate’s CPSC database would not only include consumer complaints, but also require that all reports from local, state and federal agencies, doctors, hospitals and other unspecified sources for more than 15,000 categories of products be included by manufacturer, model and year.

And, unlike the NHTSA database, the Senate’s proposed CPSC database would not protect confidential business information from public disclosure.

The Senate’s proposed database could unduly alarm consumers and harm companies. At a minimum, any public database maintained by the CPSC should only include information that has been through an appropriate review and comment process as to its accuracy and whether disclosing it would be misleading or unfairly prejudicial. (The House bill includes a study on how best to create such a database.) While the Senate provision is well-intentioned, the proposed database’s “garbage in, garbage out” approach will not improve product safety.

The Senate yesterday defeated the substitute amendment sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), that would have substituted the more targeted and effective House version (H.R. 4040) for the current S. 2663. The vote to table the amendment was 57-39.

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