Thursday, March 10, 2011

CPSIA - How We Were Forced to Deal with A Misleading Database Entry

As you may recall from yesterday, we were confronted with a false, misleading and inaccurate complaint submitted to the CPSIA database in its "soft launch". We submitted definitive information to the CPSC attesting to the error (or whatever) by the filer and were REJECTED. We were told by a senior staff person at the agency (who should know better) that the complaint needed to be posted based on the facts (the filer THOUGHT she spotted a safety issue). Our evidence that the anonymous filer's musings were flat-out WRONG were not persuasive because this is a "consumer database" and as such, our evidence did not reflect on how the anonymous filer felt. As far as I can tell, that's all that matters, unless they misidentify our product. That seems to be the only "out" (although I can't find that sentence in the law).

Get it? I wish I did.

In some respects, this controversy didn't add up to much because the complaint won't go into the database. No filings made during the "soft launch" will go into the database. It's all practice (until tomorrow morning). However, the CPSC made a policy decision in our case. Don't say you weren't warned. NEXT TIME THIS COMPLAINT WILL GO INTO THE DATABASE.

Because everyone's "practicing" now, we decided to practice by filing a "comment" to this complaint even though it won't be published either. This will no doubt become a standard approach for most people. There's little point and maybe even some downside to pushing back on a complaint. [What if the CPSC takes a look and makes a call that THERE IS A RISK OF HARM? It all seems so innocuous until they lower that boom on you . . . .] The soundest practice is probably to not protest these filings at all (feel the shaft yet?) and simply publish your own comments to be juxtaposed with the complaint.

To craft this "comment", we consulted our lawyer. Cha-ching! Don't worry, we're used to legal fees at this point. I would note that this took two person's time at our office and we had to drop everything to process this baloney complaint as if it were the most pressing matter in our little universe. Consider the cumulative waste of resources and the cost of distraction and disruption across the entire economy all owing to this database. Sounds grrrrrreat!

Our comment is reproduced here for your interest:

"The Smart Snacks Sweet Heart Sayings product has been tested for compliance with ASTM F963, the federally mandated safety standard for small parts and has passed all applicable tests with an independent test lab. The company believes this product incident report is materially inaccurate because the product does not present a small parts hazard and the complainant has provided no evidence to the contrary. As such this allegation is completely unsubstantiated."

I wonder if Congress and the CPSC can come up with even more effective ways to piss me off. Chances are they are working on it right now! I can't wait to raise more money for Republicans in the next election cycle . . . .


halojones-fan said...

Typical birdbrain consumer response:

"Oh, well of COURSE you'd say it's safe, you don't want to get SUED!"

"I don't know what all these complicated numbers mean. Complexity scares me. Since I felt scared and your toy was involved, and I 'think' by linking emotions to triggers, I will now feel scared whenever I see your toy."

"These are so many big lawyer words, why don't you just tell me whether or not it's safe? You must have something to hide otherwise you wouldn't use so many complicated words!"

Anonymous said...

Just took a look at the launched site and it is full of recalled products?

Huh? We paid how much for another site to list recalled products?

Can this get any more confusing for the consumer? It just gives more validity to random posts like you describe.

Ben S said...

You missed the box at the top that reads:

Why Don't I See Reports Yet? launched on March 11, 2011. Reports that contain minimum required information should begin to be posted about 15 business days after March 11, in early April.
Why is there an approximate 15-business day delay?

That said, it's pretty cool how official recalls are going to be placed right next to unsubstantiated reports. Can't wait till April 1st!

halojones-fan said...

I actually think it's okay for recalled products to appear in the databse. Indeed, the whole point of this database is that it's a centralized, single-point resource for consumers. You don't really want your "communication" to require consumers to drill down through five layers of a government website designed by a summer intern.