Barring any additional delays, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will vote tomorrow on the final rule for the much-anticipated product incident database. It couldn’t have happened at a more appropriate or symbolic time – a day before the start of the holiday (toy!) season – because it will be the last shopping season that consumers will lack a powerful consumer protection tool, the online product incident database.
The Commission’s vote to approve the database rule should have occurred last week, but it was delayed at the request of Commissioner Anne Northrup, who, along with Commissioner Nancy Nord, opposes it. These product incident database opponents offered an alternative proposal – one that seemed to be more of a tool to protect businesses, rather than consumers.
If all goes well tomorrow (notwithstanding the expected opposition), the database will launch in March 2011, ushering in a new era for consumer empowerment and improved product safety.
The database is expected to significantly lessen the amount of time dangerous products remain on store shelves. So by the time next year’s holiday shopping season comes around, shoppers will be able to search the database to determine whether products they hope to buy were reported as potentially harmful, and share their experiences with others as well.
Recent actions by Congress and federal regulators have led to improved product safety, but product recalls and reported injuries still remain high. The CPSC said last week that toy-related injuries are increasing (pdf). And Illinois’ attorney general released a long list of recently recalled toys and other children’s products to alert buyers of their potential to harm. I’ll surmise that if consumers could have shared and researched these incidents themselves through a vigorous online database, a number of unnecessary injuries would have been avoided.