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Court Ruling Allows Company to Keep Name Out of Unsafe Products Database

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,

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.