Thursday, February 24, 2011

CPSIA - ICPHSO Database Panel

Cheryl Falvey, Moderator - I am so excited about this panel because I know how much everyone loves the database.

I assume she was joking. Of course, she might have been thinking of the New York Times . . . .

Members of the panel:
  • DeWayne Ray, Dep. Dir., Hazard Identification and Reduction, CPSC
  • Mark Schoem, Dep. Dir., Office of Compliance
  • Melissa Hampshire, Asst. GC, Div of Enforcement and Information, CPSC
  • Scott Wolfson, Dir., Information and Public Affairs, CPSC

Won't accept anonymous submissions but will only share the info if the reporter ("consumer") checks a box to allow it. Will prosecute false filings. Won't publish for ten days after sending out the info to the manufacturers. You get the "whole" ten days.

RW: I am feeling all tingly now!

I just received a comment on my blog: "I think the coming government shutdown is good in so many ways."

CF: First picture submitted to the database was of a baby's behind.

And I thought it would be of a horse's behind . . . .

SF: We are a data-driven agency. Where have we typically received our data? DR: We get data electronically from hospitals and buy death certificates. Put up a bizarre slide with arrows, clouds, pointers, illegible type and so on. This apparently outlines where the data comes from and goes. They call this slide the "cartoon".

I am getting too much material here. . . .

DR: We really this new data warehouse which will bring real value to the CPSC. This is where they get the tools they need to "do the job".

The description of the database did not incorporate any response to the vigorous and legitimate concerns of industry. Wayne Morris referred to the database as a "blog". Ahem - CPSC, any reply?

Which reports of harm will be "public-facing"? MH: Many specific requirements before they can move forward with notifying the manufacturer or publish in the database.

MS: Rarely will postings result in a call to a company. There will be a "triage" team to sort through the data looking for serious issues.

What kinds of "product incidents" will be included in the database? DR: We have an internal process for "material inaccuracy".

What if they identify the wrong manufacturer? MH: It would be so "great" if you register, since you will get immediate notice after we complete our review of the data for meeting minimum manufacturer. We don't want to identify the wrong manufacturer.

[RW: Most of the time, manufacturers will not have sufficient data to evaluate that information, nor does ten days provide sufficient time to get this work done. Let's not forget that there's a lot to do in running a business. It is not acceptable that this database becomes the top priority of our company. It's just not fair or sensible to make filings in this database a daily emergency. In addition, very often, identification of the product is the least of the worries. What about the substance of the accusation? What happened to "findings of fact" or determinations of responsibility? The database is very likely to become a standard part of litigation strategy. There's a shocker for you!!]

How can manufacturers make comments on the "report of harm"? MH: Manufacturers can make any comment it wants. In addition, you can object to the inclusion of "confidential information". Can also claim that the filing is "materially inaccurate".

[RW: The latter two objections are as likely to be successful as an exemption from the "any lead" requirement. What, there are exemptions possible - look at the CPSIA . . . . So far, there are zero exemptions issued in three years. And there will be very few or no legitimate objections that stand up in the database process.]

CF: We rarely if ever receive confidential information from consumers. Todd Stevenson says it has happened twice since 1972. Staff will scrub the information to prevent this, too. Material inaccuracy is defined as false and misleading and so substantial as to materially mislead consumers. Burden of proof is on the manufacturer to supply EVIDENCE to support their claim of materially inaccuracy. The issue they will be most concerned about is materially inaccuracy relating to hazards. The agency EXPECTS manufacturers to call consumers in those ten days to figure out whether the claim is legitimate.

CF: We have received so many pictures during the soft boot of the database that we need new servers. It's pretty astounding.

[RW: OMG. This is going to be a feeding frenzy when Scott Wolfson puts his machinery into motion. Why do we need the government to play this role in the market? How are we going to stay in business when the government is encouraging litigation and brand destruction???]

CF: The database has a disclaimer that the agency can't verify or stand behind the accuracy of the database. We have no opinion on "causation".

RW: We are SOOOO screwed.

CF: Mentioned the DryMax diaper crisis that took a full year to resolve. [Under the database, every single claim would appear for a year until it emerges that each and every one was false and wrong. Too bad for P&G, I guess.]

RW: So so so screwed.

MH: Discussed link between the database filings and Section 6(b) disclosures. Ditto for FOIA process. [Based on my experience, FOIA couldn't take much of their time, since finishing off FOIA responses is . . . not a priority.]

Tell us about "education and outreach" about the database. SW: This is a tool for consumers. It's all about the back end.

RW: Now you know where you'll be getting it.

SW: It is extremely important to sign up for the portal. "Snail mail" won't work "as effectively". Think of the ten day window. 700 companies have signed up but it should be in the thousands.

RW: Maybe Aston Kutcher can help!

SW: On the consumer side, Hotline should take fewer calls. Watns to see the reports shift to the database. Will use the Twitter platform to publicize the database, plus blogs. Will continnue to promote the database because they see it as a benefit to consumers. Expects the database to start filling in March but it may as long as a month to have enough "data" to make the searching function to become "useful".

RW: Plaintiff lawyers, take note! Don't worry, they have . . . .

No questions taken. Apparently there's nothing to discuss. Maybe later . . . . Thanks, Cheryl! We get it.

1 comment:

halojones-fan said...

"It is not acceptable that this database becomes the top priority of our company."

Well, if safety is your primary concern, and this database is the method by which safety issues are reported, then maybe it should be.

But hey, that's just something else for your new Safety Ombudsman to handle, right? You know, the person that Inez Tenenbaum can't imagine a company would NOT have?

That said...
"Material inaccuracy is defined as false and misleading and so substantial as to materially mislead consumers. Burden of proof is on the manufacturer to supply EVIDENCE to support their claim of materially inaccuracy."

Okay. So it's the manufacturer's responsibility to do all of the legwork related to these database reports--and then the CPSC gets to decide whether or not the report is legit.

This government agency--whose hard drives were completely filled up on the first DAY where people could submit reports--is going to make a timely judgement that fully takes into account the interests of the business and the details of the report.

And maybe I'm a Chinese jet pilot.