Thursday, October 28, 2010


Yesterday we established that the current draft of the public database rule would mistakenly allow anyone to submit a “report of harm.” But Congress specifically listed who could post incidents in the public database: consumers; local, State, or Federal government agencies; health care professionals; child service providers; and public safety entities---not just “anyone.” All of these categories have one thing in common – they are individuals who generally have firsthand information about the incident in question.

So how is “consumers” defined? One would assume “consumers” means (and is limited to) the individual who actually owns or uses the consumer product about which the “report of harm” is submitted—which the statutory context supports. It makes sense that a public database would contain legitimate, “consumer” incident reports—straight from the horse’s mouth.

Unfortunately, the Commission has stretched the definition of “consumers” to mean literally anyone! As the preamble to the rule states, “…the term ‘consumer’ is quite broad, and includes anyone who consumes or uses an economic good.” In other words, the term means anyone who consumes anything—you, me, or someone living in a completely different area code from the incident. This flawed definition opens the door to allowing people with no real knowledge of an incident or with ulterior agendas (competitors, advocacy groups, lawyers) to flood the database with unreliable reports and misuse or mislead the consumers we were intending to help.

Congress would not have bothered to include additional categories if it had meant for “consumers” to cover everyone. If Congress wanted anyone to post (accurately or not), it could have: 1) written the law to say that; 2) left out any list of who can submit, or; 3) provided a sixth category of “others.” But it didn’t. In point of fact, the current definition of “consumers” in our draft rule runs counter to the statute and blatantly ignores the intent of Congress to provide reliable, accurate information for the public's use.

More to come…

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