The new searchable product-safety database operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), www.SaferProducts.gov, became fully operational on March 11, 2011. What will be its impact? Will it help consumers make informed decisions in purchasing safe toys for their children? Will it help regulators and manufacturers identify potentially dangerous trends before they otherwise might have been noticed? Will it be misused by plaintiffs' attorneys and experts as a means of "proving" the occurrence of incidents or injuries that never happened?
The short answer to each of these questions is not known — at least for now. What is known, however, is that every manufacturer, importer, distributor and retailer of consumer products should be aware of how the database works and may want to implement a plan for dealing with it.
The CPSC has maintained that the database will "give consumers access and information to product safety in a quicker manner so that they can be informed about what is in the marketplace," and that it "will be a critical tool for the public to know about when responding to hazards." The database has been championed by consumer advocates echoing the CPSC's pronouncements and regarded unfavorably by industry organizations as a likely mass of unreliable information that may be confusing to consumers —and that may be misused by plaintiffs' attorneys and experts in legal proceedings.
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