I’ve long been an advocate for www.recalls.gov, which allows users to learn about recalled products. Now there’s a new government Web site, www.saferproducts.gov that allows anyone to post information about a product believed to be hazardous. Those reports are shared with manufacturers and can also be searched by the public.
“It’s incredibly important because consumers currently are in the dark when it comes to hazards posed by consumer products,” said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety at the Consumer Federation of America, an advocacy group, in a New York Times interview. “They either never find out or find out when it’s too late.”
The database reportedly will include only information about defects that result in injury or death, not complaints about reliability or quality. (It also won’t include complaints about food, drugs, cosmetics, cars and tires, which are regulated by other agencies.)
When a consumer files a complaint, the CPSC has five days to notify the manufacturer, which in turn has 10 days to respond. The manufacturer can challenge the complaint as false, argue that it will give away a trade secret or submit a response – which will published online with the complaint.
Not surprisingly, manufacturers are concerned about how publicly submitted reports may damage their reputation. Their nightmares range from misinformation to brand sabotage.
They may have a point. The Consumerist has a little poll going to allow readers to vote on the “Worst Company in America.” Apparently, Comcast urged employees to vote for its competitor, Charter.
Nothing wrong with cheering for the home team. But as my mom taught me, booing the competition is poor behavior.
Consumer reporter Herb Weisbaum shares his feelings in this MSNBC report:
"The CPSC admits it does not have the resources to verify every report received. …But I also think the manufacturers brought this on themselves by fighting product recalls, telling the public products with known hazards were safe, and blaming ‘product misuse’ for what were really design flaws.
SaferProducts.gov gives consumers much more power. But the ability to post comments — unfiltered and unverified — already exists on all sorts of websites. The government’s site has built-in safeguards. The CPSC says it wants to get it right. They need to get it right for everyone’s sake."
Find information about product recalls at www.atg.wa.gov/recentrecalls.aspx.