A Defective Consumer Product – Courtesy of CPSC

Come March 11, reports filed with the CPSC from virtually any source will be logged into a database that will become available for public viewing on April 1 (no comment!).  There has been much press coverage of what a boon to consumers this information will be.  What is remarkable is that no one in the media has made the effort to look behind the curtain at how it is really working.  The fact is, this show is not ready for prime time.  


For the last six weeks, the dress rehearsal for the database launch has been running into issues and questions that have been mounting up.  Yes, that’s the purpose of a soft launch, to discover AND address glitches.  Problem is, the list of concerns that have been identified (and it’s well over 100 and still counting) will take, at a minimum weeks, and in some cases months, to iron out.  Problems range from technical to conceptual. For example:

·        Licensees or retailers may be referenced in a report, but because of the database set-up, they cannot respond to the report and would not even be put on notice.

·        Currently our system allows us to send only one automatic electronic notification through the business portal to a manufacturer or importer.  Anyone else who should receive it gets it sent manually and if sent by “snail mail,” that will eat up much of the 10 day turnaround time allotted for manufacturers’ responses.


This is hardly an exhaustive list.  Yet we are rushing to get this up and going, I suspect, in part, to beat any Congressional action to delay it until these issues can be resolved. 


Interestingly, concerning another agency’s online electronic reporting platform, EPA just announced that “following conversations with industry and others, and in the interest of providing high quality data to the public…” it is extending the online launch of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program until later this year. This extension will “allow EPA to further test the system.”


Gee, what a novel idea.  I don’t see why CPSC couldn’t do that and instead insists on launching a defective consumer product.  CPSC is supposed to address defective products, not produce them.


2 Responses to “A Defective Consumer Product – Courtesy of CPSC”

  1. 1 Ben S March 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Could the list of concerns be made available? It might help to give those that don’t understand why problems exist. I’m assuming since this is all being done open/transparent/etc, publishing the list wouldn’t require extreme measures. -.-

    • 2 Nancy Nord March 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      Ben, thanks for your question. Right now staff has identified over 120 enhancements that need to be made to the database, some of them just technical fixes and some that raise more operational questions. The list grows as we get more experience with usage. As to your question about whether I can post a list of concerns, unfortunately, I cannot do that because the list has not been internally “cleared” for public consumption but you could perhaps get the list by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act. (You can find instructions for doing that on our web site http://www.cpsc.gov) It is the intent right now of the agency that as it fixes problems, the fix will be noted on the web site as a new feature or as a revision.

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