More on that Consumer Complaint Database

By July 29, 2008Briefly Legal

The Chicago Tribune plugs the paper’s Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of toy safety and reports on the conference agreement. Included is discussion of the public database of consumer complaints in H.R. 4040, the CPSC bill. From “Bill targets toy safety“:

Disclosure of safety complaints in a publicly searchable database is a historic shift from the current system, which was set up three decades ago to protect manufacturers’ reputations. To obtain such information now, consumers must file requests under the Freedom of Information Act, and manufacturers can block or delay release of that information. The new law allows manufacturers to respond to complaints and lets the CPSC remove those it finds to be inaccurate.

“This database will let consumers learn more about hazards and make more informed decisions when trying to purchase a product,” said Rachel Weintraub, an attorney for the Consumer Federation of America who lobbied for the bill. “The goal is to end the manufacturers’ veto on information.”

Jim Neill, a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers, countered that the database will allow “rumor and innuendo” to smear safe products.

While Neill says his organization supports a stronger CPSC, he lamented that the bill could have “unintended consequences that could potentially harm American employers and employees.”

Ah, Jim, Jim, Jim. The public has moved on. We’re beyond worrying about manufacturers’ reputations.

On a serious note, if you’re an inventive class-action attorney, don’t you think you’re going to find a way to game that system? Pour hundreds of anonymous complaints into the database, so many that the company under attack finds it difficult to respond, point the media to the material, get an inflammatory story spread throughout the blogosphere, and then solicit clients. Perfect.

BTW, here’s the American Association for Justice’s quarterly lobbying report for second quarter, 2008. Lobbying expenses for the quarter: $1,740,000. Yes, H.R. 4040 is listed.

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