CPSC’s Northup: Database Will Show Blatant Disregard for Accuracy

By December 3, 2010Regulations

A Senate Commerce subcommittee held what was billed as an oversight hearing on the CPSC and toy safety in conjunction with the holiday gift-giving season. It was pretty mundane affair, with just a little useful discussion of Rep. Henry Waxman’s proposal for a “functional exclusion” for products from the inflexible mandates of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The proposal is a diversion from fixing the CPSIA’s many substantive flaws.

Surprisingly, the issue of the just-finalized rules for the product safety complaint database (see below) was just mentioned and not discussed.

Commissioner Anne Northup, however, provided a good review of the provision’s harmful approach in her prepared testimony. (We’ve split the paragraph up for readability):

A prime example of wasted taxpayer resources—$29 million worth in fact—will be the consumer database that the Commission is tasked with implementing early next year. The CPSIA requires that the Commission establish and maintain a database on the safety of consumer products that is publicly available and searchable on the Commission’s website.

Unfortunately, the majority of the Commission adopted a rule just last week that will make the database useless or worse. Among other problems, the rule defines consumers to include just about everyone, so that reports of harm can be submitted by people with ulterior motives rather than just the actual consumers who suffered harm and have firsthand information about the consumer product.

In addition, the rule has interpreted a 10-day deadline in the statute to require agency staff to post reports of harm even though the agency has received credible claims of material inaccuracy, even if the staff has not had time to resolve those claims yet.

Finally, since groups with ulterior motives (trial lawyers, competitors, groups wanting to sell a “remedial” product, or an association wanting to lobby Congress for a new mandate) can submit reports into this database without providing the consumer’s name, it is unlikely that the Commission will be able to ascertain critical facts related to a product. Such blatant disregard for accurate data will undermine the whole purpose of the database—to assist consumers trying to purchase safe products. It will also raise prices, kill jobs, and damage the reputations of safe and responsible manufacturers indiscriminately.

And manufacturers vigorously object to that attack against their reputations. Thank you, Commissioner.

Also at Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) continued her good involvement and questioning on issues affecting the ATV industry, which is a major Minnesota employer.

For a first-hand account of how the CPSIA has done so much economic and individual damage, read the statement of Jill Chuckas, owner of a small, hand-crafted children’s accessories business called Crafty Baby, who testified on behalf of the Handmade Toy Alliance.

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