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Just in time for the holidays, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved a Final Rule to establish an online database of product safety complaints that will be open to all consumers.

This means that if you experience a problem with the safety of a product, you will be able to report it publicly without going through arduous and often dubious process of contacting the manufacturer directly.

The database will contain reports of harm; manufacturer comments on those reports; recall information and any additional information the [CPSC] feels is in the public interest.

The reporting mechanism is open to just about any member of the public who would

have knowledge of an alleged product-based injury or death – including health professionals, lawyers, public safety officials and child care providers.

Incomplete incident reports will not make it into the public database, including those that do not contain an identifiable consumer product, manufacturer or private labeler, a description of the harm; intrusive photographs; medical records without consent; and reports by minors without a parent or guardian’s consent. –Safety Research & Strategies

Factually inaccurate reports will also, of course, be pulled from the database, so that abuse by consumers is kept to a bare minimum. Nevertheless, manufacturers have expressed extreme dismay about the database, claiming that it will kill business and spur on frivolous lawsuits.

Much of the hand-wringing is, no doubt, rooted in inexperience. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fields between 30,000-50,000 complaints from consumers each year, which are entered into a public database. To date, no automobile manufacturer has been brought down by consumer access to product complaints. –Safety Research & Strategies

Certainly, it seems that a database that’s actually monitored and policed by the CPSC for inaccuracies and fraudulent activities stands less of a chance to damage business than the more typical product rating sites, where people can give a product low marks if something like shipping takes too long. Let’s celebrate this new database as the valuable educational and safety tool it stands to become.

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