Friday, November 5, 2010


We have already seen that the Commission established a definition for “consumers” that is so broad as to allow anyone to submit incident reports to the new database (rendering the category of “consumers” largely useless)---but let’s take a look at another category: PUBLIC SAFETY ENTITIES.

Given that the statute’s list of who may submit reports of harm denotes individuals likely to have firsthand knowledge of the incident, it makes sense that a “public safety entity” would include, for example, the fire fighter that put out the fire caused by a consumer product (direct knowledge of the incident). Or, it could include the city’s health department that inspected the county’s swimming pool and found a defect in its equipment (again, direct knowledge of the incident).

However, the Commission has construed “public safety entities” to mean any entities, public or private, that claim to have “a public safety purpose." The draft rule's definition states:

“…other public safety officials and professionals, including consumer advocates or individuals who work for nongovernmental organizations, consumer advocacy organizations, and trade associations, so long as they have a public safety purpose.

Really? How can the definition of "PUBLIC safety entities" be construed to allow even PRIVATE advocacy groups that may also have financially-driven or politically driven agendas to submit incidents directly into the database? This is a far cry from the kind of submitters provided for in the statute, and a step that opens a Pandora’s box of inaccurate, misleading information.

Based on this definition, the Consumer’s Union (CU), a common example of a consumer advocacy organization, can submit incident reports. While the CU claims to have a public safety mission, their website also lists advocacy campaigns related to big government health care reform, expanded federal regulation of banks, allowing bankruptcy judges to write down home loans, and promoting energy legislation---campaigns that are quite biased and unrelated to risk-based science or consumer safety.

What about the “Pool Safety Council,” which was established by an individual who was president of a company selling anti-entrapment "safety" devices for pools? A number of advocacy organizations with public safety missions may also have a conflict of interest or self-serving motives when it comes to reporting product safety incidents. That is probably why Congress did not authorize them to submit reports of harm to the database.

In any event, a U.S. Government, taxpayer-funded, public database should not be a vehicle for advocacy groups or attorneys that wish to file complaints (which they may have received third-hand) in order to promote hidden agendas. This would make the database misleading or useless for consumers...

Stay tuned for more…

1 comment:

Don said...

Consumers Union takes issue with Commissioner Northup’s contention that our organization’s advocacy efforts preclude us from submitting non-biased product safety information to the CPSC’s new safety database. This is not accurate or fair. Consumers Union has a long, proud, and independent tradition of fighting for a safe, just and fair marketplace for all consumers, and helping consumers protect themselves. For 75 years, we have worked to ensure that consumers have safe product choices and that the marketplace also treats consumers’ pocketbooks fairly. Helping consumer address skyrocketing health care costs, credit card and mortgage rip-offs, and rising energy prices fits well within the CU mission.

We are proud of our product safety work. To maintain its independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising and no free samples and employs several hundred mystery shoppers and technical experts to buy and test the products it evaluates.

CU strongly supports transparency in government and believes that consumers have a right to know about the hazards they may be facing in the marketplace and in their homes.

Don Mays
Senior Director, Product Safety/Technical Policy
Consumers Union