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Wednesday
Jul062011

Last Days for Government's Product Safety Database?

SaferProducts [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- With lawmakers still debating the deficit and whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling past $14.29 trillion, the only government sponsored online product safety database is near its end.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) online database, SaferProducts.gov, just launched in March, but the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill late last month decreasing the Commission's budget and eliminating funding for its online database.  The bill, which needs approval of the House and Senate, could be on the House floor as early as the middle of next week, according to Jennifer Hing, communications director of the House Appropriations Committee.

"CPSC's database is an example of a poorly executed regulatory policy that does not protect consumers and hurts business at a time when industries need our help the most," Hing said.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., introduced a provision on page 90 of the bill for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012.  The provision states "none of the funds made available by this act may be used to carry out any of the activities described in section 6A of the Consumer Product Safety Act," saving about $3 million.

The database was mandated by section 6a in 2008, when President Bush signed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act, regulating products for children under 12.  That law was an update to the Consumer Products Safety Act in 1972.  In 2008, the law was passed 89-3 in the Senate and 424-1 in the House.

Out of the database's 1,600 complaints, 104 were found to have inaccuracies by the Commission, mostly related to an incorrect manufacturer.

Alex Filip, CPSC spokesman, said the Commission has received strong support for the database from consumers, who submit the majority of complaints.  Another large source of complaints are from medical professionals.

Filip said the Commission vets the complaints before posting them online.  Once a consumer submits a complaint, the Commission has five days to contact the manufacturer.  The Commission then offers 10 days for manufacturers to respond to the complaint.  Consumers must describe the product, identify a manufacturer or private labeler, describe whether there was any injury, and verify that the report is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge.

But lawmakers say the database is flawed and must go.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced legislation in February prohibiting funds to implement the database.  The bill passed in the House 234 to 187.

Pompeo said there are other more effective means to help protect consumers not funded by the government, such as Consumer Reports or contacting manufacturers directly.  He said the government should not post information online "unless it knows the information to be accurate."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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