When consumers seek information about the safety of the vehicle, tires, or child safety seats that they currently use or are about to buy, they can search the www.safercar.gov database hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That site also allows consumers to file a safety complaint on their vehicle, tires or safety seat if they experience a hazardous situation, which helps to warn other consumers and NHTSA about the perils they may face. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a similar public database for consumer complaints about medical devices. But until now, no such system existed for other consumer products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) changed all that.
Today, as mandated by the CPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched their first publicly-accessible safety complaints database. You can access their new site at www.saferproducts.gov. Instructions on submitting safety complaints about consumer products are provided in this video produced by the CPSC.
Our take: This is a major milestone that will empower consumers not only to learn about the safety complaints on the products they own, but to file their own complaints to warn other consumers. Previously, the only way to access safety complaints reported to the CPSC on specific products was to file a request through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But this process of retrieving specific product information took far too long, even years in our experience--not exactly consumer-friendly or practical. Now, the safety complaint data housed in the new CPSC database can be accessed almost instantaneously--even through a smart phone at the point-of-sale. The database will also modernize the CPSC's information gathering, will help the federal agency use its resources more efficiently, and will help it spot hazard trends more quickly. The database also contains an array of protections--including the opportunity for manufacturers to make their own response to a complaint at any time--to help ensure that inaccurate information does not get published.
Unfortunately, there are some who object to making CPSC safety information publicly accessible. They cite risks of erroneous reports and monger the fear of product liability lawsuits against manufacturers. But those complaints are unfounded and attempt to obscure what should be transparency of government data that can help protect consumers. To those who put industry profits in front consumer safety, I say: "Don't play politics with our safety."