From The Washington Post, ”Publicly accessible product safety database hits House roadblock“:

As part of the spending bill that passed the House on Feb. 19, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) won support for a measure to withhold money to implement the system, which is set to launch March 11. The database, which was welcomed by consumer advocates, would make public thousands of complaints received by the Consumer Product Safety Commission each year about safety problems with products, from table lamps to baby strollers.

Pompeo, backed by groups representing manufacturers, said the database would be filled with fictitious or inaccurate claims and place new financial burdens on U.S. businesses.

“This will drive jobs overseas,” Pompeo said during floor debate on his amendment. “It will increase the cost for manufacturers and consumers.”

We’ve uploaded Pompeo’s floor statement and the debate on the amendment here. For the National Association of Manfacturers’ views on the database, see this post.

The New York Times, the most irresponsible media outlet in uncritically cheering on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, fumed editorialy about manufacturers’ objections, claiming, “The concern about frivolous lawsuits is a predictable canard. The database was designed with safeguards to avoid bogus claims and keep lawyers from trawling for clients.” Right, because no trial lawyer would ever gin up bogus product complaints to shake down manufacturers.

And even if Congress intended the database to operate with safeguards, the Consumer Product Safety Commission ignored congressional intent and instead wrote a rule favored by the (often indistinguishable) litigation interests and “consumer advocates.” As CPSC Commissioner Anne Northup testified in the House recently:

The statute identifies five sources from which the Commission shall receive reports of harm. These are (1) consumers; (2) local, state, or Federal government agencies; (3) child care professionals; (4) child service providers; and (5) public safety entities. CPSIA § 212(b)(1)(A).

Each of these categories of submitters is likely to have first-hand knowledge of the harm reported. They can therefore be expected to provide accurate and reliable information that may be useful to consumers seeking product safety information.

Notwithstanding the statute’s clear language, the Commission’s Majority adopted a rule that greatly expanded the list of allowable submitters to the Database. For example, the Commission’s regulation defines “consumers” to include “attorneys”, and “public safety entities” to include “consumer advocates or individuals who work for nongovernmental organizations, consumer advocacy organizations, and trade associations.” 16 C.F.R. § 1102.10(a). This expansion goes against the statutory purpose that the Database be “useful” for consumers and not disseminate erroneous information.

Indeed, the Majority has expanded the list of submitters to such an extent that anyone can submit reports of harm—thereby rendering meaningless the statutory language listing permitted submitters.

A database full of error and inflammatory reports does not serve the interest of consumers or safety, it serves only the interests of the litigation industry and “consumer activists” who thrive by keeping the public in the state of constant alarm.

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