CPSC Product Safety Database Faces First Lawsuit
Seven months into its existence, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) product safety database has been presented with its first legal challenge. An anonymous manufacturer in Maryland, listed as "Company Doe" in the lawsuit, has filed a motion to prevent SaferProducts.gov from publishing a complaint about one of its products.
Filed this past Monday, Oct. 17, the motion looks to specifically prevent the CPSC from making public an incident that the company feels is "completely baseless." Further, the filing seeks to seal from the public any documents or information related to the lawsuit, and to grant the company anonymity for the duration of the proceedings.
The report submitted to SaferProducts.gov addresses an incident where a child was injured, which was brought to the CPSC's attention by another federal agency, not the family of the child. The manufacturer's filing says there is no factual or medical evidence to support the complaint.
Company Doe's case focuses a spotlight on one of the most criticized aspects of the CPSC's product safety database. As it stands, unless a company can materially disprove a poster's claim within 10 days of the complaint submission, the report will be published on the product safety website. Opponents to the website, like the manufacturer that filed the lawsuit, argue that it allows users to slander a company and that false postings could irreparably damage a company's reputation or misinform consumers.
According to the Washington Post, since the site launched there have been 383 claims against companies that were found to be materially inaccurate. Of those, 204 involved the submitter providing the wrong name of a company. Further, one-third of all complaints on SaferProducts.gov do not contain all of the required information. The site's detractors point to all of these as examples where the reputation of a business could be unjustly damaged.
The CPSC has stated that it plans to file a motion to have the case unsealed, which would reveal the manufacturer's name and the nature of the complaint. Company Doe's filing claims this would have the same effect as publishing the complaint in the database. If the presiding judge grants the seal it could create a precedent whereby other manufacturers could request anonymity during legal proceedings, which could tie up the case and the related complaint on SaferProducts.gov for months or years, effectively undermining the CPSC's site.
The outcome of the case could have a long-term impact on the effectiveness of the product safety database. Stay tuned to PromoMarketing.com for more as the story develops.
Kyle A. Richardson is the editorial director of Promo Marketing. He joined the company in 2006 brings more than a decade of publishing, marketing and media experience to the magazine. If you see him, buy him a drink.