Preparing for the CPSC Public Database - What You Need to Know

January 11, 2011

Complimentary Webinar

Mike Daglio of McGuireWoods' Consumer Product Safety Team conducted a webinar in which McGuireWoods provides tools for your company to prepare for the release of the public database by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Beginning on March 11, 2011, the CPSC will make available to the public a database intended by Congress to serve as a consumer product early warning system. Consumers, plaintiffs' lawyers, advocacy groups and others will submit for publication in the database allegations concerning what they believe are dangerous consumer products, or components of those products. The database will be searchable and accessible on-line at www.SaferProducts.gov. So long as the person or entity submitting a report satisfies the minimum requirements for publication – a low hurdle – the CPSC will publish the allegations 10 business days after providing a manufacturer or private labeler with the opportunity to raise limited objections, or to publish comments in the database responding to the allegations.

Consumers have been submitting complaints to the CPSC since the early 1970s, and since that time the CPSC has solicited comments from manufacturers and others regarding those complaints. Due to the protections afforded by the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and other laws, the vast majority of consumer complaints were not released to the public. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the impetus for the new database, reverses that outcome. The vast majority of reports submitted on or after March 11, 2011, by whomever, with whatever motive, will be published in the database.

The database has the potential of damaging the reputations of some companies and their brands, increasing the cost of doing business, and serving as a tool for plaintiffs' lawyers in products liability and class action litigation. These potential risks and costs can be reduced with advanced planning that incorporates database considerations into your company's existing efforts to ensure product safety. Is your company prepared? Here are the questions your company should be asking:

  • Will your company register to receive electronic notification of reports submitted for publication in the database, and if so, who at the company will receive the notifications?
  • Who at your company will be responsible for overseeing the company's investigations concerning the allegations, recognizing that some objections must be asserted well before the 10th business day to prevent the information from being published in the database?
  • After weighing the legal and business implications, will your company submit comments for publication, and if so, under what circumstances and using what internal approval process?
  • Who at your company will be authorized to submit comments and objections regarding the reports, recognizing that an individual will be obligated to verify the truth and accuracy of any comments submitted, and that any objections are asserted in good faith?
  • Companies will be prohibited from using consumer contact information for any purpose other than verifying a report. Will your company institute a process to ensure that consumer contact information is protected?
  • Retailers will not receive reports in advance of publication and will not be permitted to comment on reports. If your company is a retailer, will it monitor the database for references to the company, raising objections when appropriate?