A federal judge in Maryland recently ruled that a manufacturing company
should be able to keep its name off the federal government’s new
database of unsafe consumer products, saferproducts.gov.
The database allows people to file reports of injury or potential harm
related to products from baby gear to power tools. As reports are filed,
people will be able to search for safety complaints about specific items
they might have in their homes or wish to purchase. A procedure is in
place that allows manufacturers ten days to respond to a report before
it is added to the database.
According to the
New York Times, the manufacturer, who remains anonymous, submitted medical data to the
Consumer Product Safety Commission supporting its contention that the
information in the database about its product was “materially misleading.”
The CPSC agreed to correct the reports, but the manufacturer was still
dissatisfied and filed suit.
Judge Alexander Williams Jr. ultimately concluded that the CPSC’s
decision to publish the complaint was “arbitrary and capricious”
and that it could influence a consumer’s behavior, even though the
agency disclaims any endorsement of the reports.
In his ruling, Williams downplayed fears that the decision would trigger
a rash of lawsuits by companies trying to keep their products off the
database. “The prospect of successful challenges to the database
does not threaten to categorically compromise the Commission’s consumer
safety mission,” the judge wrote. “In sum, there is ample
middle ground between the foundation this opinion lays and the apocalypse
the Commission predicts.”
However, consumer advocacy groups fear that the ruling compromises the
effectiveness of the database, particularly the court’s decision
to allow the manufacturer to proceed under the pseudonym “Company
Doe.” Therefore, they plan to appeal.