New Government Complaint Site Empowers Consumers

Photo (cc) by Ben Husmann

If knowledge is power, consumers are now a lot more empowered – thanks to the federal government.

Earlier this month, they launched the Consumer Product Safety Information Database (SaferProducts.gov), a searchable and public collection of product complaints that were previously unavailable to the average consumer.

“Through SaferProducts.gov consumers will have open access to produce safety information that they have never seen before,” said Inez Tenenbaum, chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which created the database. “The ability for parents and consumers to search this database for incidents involving a product they already own or are thinking of purchasing will enable them to make independent decisions aimed at keeping their family safe.”

The database both gives and takes, however. In addition to enabling consumers to obtain product safety information, it allows them to provide information about products that have caused harm or that pose a risk of harm. The process works like so…

  1. A consumer – or child services provider, health care professional, government official, or public safety entity – submits a complaint about a product via the File a Report page.
  2. The manufacturer of that product receives a copy of the complaint and gets an opportunity to rebut.
  3. The consumer’s completed report (minus any confidential information it may contain) along with the manufacturer’s comments are published in the database.

Although the database officially launched on March 11, the CPSC started registering businesses online and accepting consumer reports on Jan. 24 in order to test the system. During that period, the commission received about 1,500 complaints, which will be made public in early April.

Until then, you can still file a complaint or learn more about the database by exploring its FAQ page.

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