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…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Garbage In...Garbage Out

Over the next few weeks, I will explain in detail the *MAIN FLAWS* in the database rule as currently proposed. It is my hope that this Commission will listen to the commenters and make significant, necessary changes before finalizing this rule:


The CPSIA only mentions five categories of submitters: consumers; local, State, or Federal government agencies; health care professionals; child service providers; and public safety entities. Anyone looking at this list would see a common thread—these are all people who might have first-hand knowledge of the incident. Why would Congress have included this list, if it actually intended anyone to be able to submit a report? The answer is, it didn’t. Thus, the rule’s list of submitters should not include those who have no relationship to the incident in question.

But as currently conceived, anyone will be able to submit a “report of harm” to the new, public database—even if the submitter does not know who was harmed, the particular product involved (let alone the exact model), and did not see the incident occur. As of right now, in a national database full of incidents across all consumer products (everything from toasters, to ATVs, to furniture), we are not even limiting who can submit to people who have first-hand knowledge of an incident!

Why is this important? Because Congress intended to create a useful, accurate database for consumers wishing to make a purchase. But this database will not be useful to consumers if random bystanders, attorneys, advocacy groups or even well-intentioned citizens without key facts can fill it with unreliable reports. It will simply be garbage in…garbage out.

More to come…

Friday, October 22, 2010

"I can't hear you...I’m not listening"

This week’s consumer database hearing confirmed what I have feared since the NPR was released….this commission simply is not interested in listening to your concerns. More than 2/3 of the comments we received indicated that a more narrow definition of “consumer” or “others” would improve the accuracy and reliability of the database---something that is imperative for both consumers and manufacturers that will be using it. A massive public database with unverified complaints and no limits to what can come in (with a self-verification check box and disclaimer that barely pass the laugh test…) is useless to just about everyone but perhaps trial lawyers and advocacy groups looking for someone to sue or a new industry to regulate…..

I hope there is still a chance that the final rule will contain enough improvements to bring some common sense to this massive endeavor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"The Miley Cyrus Standard"

Thought you'd be interested in this Washington Times Op-Ed that points out more confusion caused by the Definition of Children's Product and "the discordant effects of big government that apparently can't be tamed."