Today the CPSC voted, 3 to 2, to approve a final rule establishing the CPSC's Publicly Available Product Safety Information Database ("Database"). The Database was mandated by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and it will place significant burdens on product manufacturers. Once the CPSC notifies a manufacturer of an incident, it has ten business days to investigate and decide whether and how to respond. In a joint statement issued today, Chairman Tenenbaum and Commissioners Adler and Moore called this "a major step toward empowering consumers," further stating:
Today's vote represents a major victory for consumers and supporters of open government because it will provide the public access to critical product safety information that, due to statutory restrictions on the open flow of information, the CPSC was previously required to keep behind closed doors until it had been cleared with manufacturers. Through SaferProducts.gov, when the Database debuts on March 11, 2011, the CPSC will share more information about dangerous products than we have been allowed to in years past―a change that we believe will lead to safer products and, therefore, safer consumers.
The Database should be welcomed not just by those with a mission to protect consumers but also by companies that produce consumer products. We believe that responsible companies that produce or sell consumer products will have the opportunity to use this new resource to inform their quality control programs and ensure that safer products are available on store shelves.
This vote approves a plan that was opposed by many industry groups. "The plan was opposed by business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. The agency rejected an alternate proposal from its two Republican commissioners to narrow the scope of information gathered at the site, established in response to a 2008 law beefing up the agency's product-safety oversight."
One of the main areas of disagreement between the competing proposals was the scope of the definition of "consumers" who may submit an incident report. The Draft Final Rule Section 1102.10(a)(1) defines “consumers” as including, but not limited to, users of consumer products, family members, relatives, parents, guardians, friends, attorneys, investigators, professional engineers, agents of a user of a consumer product, and observers of the consumer products being used. Many commenters opined that the definition of “consumer” should not be so broad as to include those persons who were not injured by the product or who are not reliable reporters of the incident, such as those persons lacking firsthand knowledge of the product, its manufacturer, or the injury. In its Response to the comments the CPSC Staff stated that "The plain statutory language does not require a submitter of a report of harm to have “firsthand knowledge.” We have chosen an interpretation of “consumer” that comports with our experience in maintaining a database of consumer product incident reports."