World and Nation

Consumer agency to post a database of unsafe products

Despite threats of a budget cut, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will unveil on Friday a database that will allow the public to search for complaints about the safety of everyday products.

Called, the database will essentially make public the types of injury and death reports, and assorted hazard complaints, that the commission has gathered for years, but that have largely remained out of public view.

Consumers also will be able to file complaints at the website for all types of products except for food, drugs, cosmetics, cars, and guns.

The database is the result of legislation in 2008 that gave the commission significantly more authority and money after an onslaught of recalls, many of them for children’s products from China.

“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.

“They either never find out or find out when it’s too late.”

Though the database will be considered live as of Friday, consumers will not be able to search reports from other consumers until early April. But they will be able to file reports on the site and browse through product recalls immediately.

The reason that consumers will not be able to search the database immediately is that manufacturers have 10 days to respond before a report is posted.

But even as the site goes live, manufacturers and some members of Congress are still pushing for changes.

Among them is Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., who is trying to strip financing for the database until it can be revised, a move some Democrats have vowed to block.

In an interview, Pompeo said the database should be revised so that the commission and manufacturers could better vet reports before they are posted to ensure accuracy. The current iteration of the database, he said, would make it easy to post bogus reports that could lead consumers astray.

“This is a .gov site,” he said, referring to the government’s domain name. “This is a site where consumers would have a higher level of expectation about the data presented.”

Rosario A. Palmieri, vice president for infrastructure, legal, and regulatory policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, said the commission’s definition of who could file reports was too broad, allowing trial lawyers and consumer advocates among others.

“We just want it fixed,” he said. “We want the information in the database to be accurate.”

Scott Wolfson, spokesman for the commission, said they wanted to encourage all types of people to file reports on the database to make it as robust and informative as possible.

He said the commission screened every report to make sure it contained certain core information and that it pertained to the safety of the product, not its performance.