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Consumer Reports’ oral testimony to the CPSC on potential improvements to SaferProducts.gov

SaferProducts.gov is a useful tool that can be improved through key upgrades, particularly through an open process for feedback. We support the CPSC’s intention to evaluate the database and develop proposed enhancements.

Here are our top priorities as the CPSC carries out that work.

CPSC and All Stakeholders Should Push to Increase Reports to SaferProducts.gov

SaferProducts.gov is fundamentally sound as a publicly available, searchable, and accessible product safety information database. Consumers and others are readily able to provide reports of harm related to the use of consumer products. The site is also useful to Consumer Reports’ safety research, journalism, and advocacy, and we understand that CPSC staff use reports and responses in the database to help assess the risk of harm from a potential product hazard.

At the same time, we’re concerned that reports of harm received via SaferProducts.gov represent an exceedingly small portion of the actual product hazard-related incidents that occur. We all should have a goal to capture as many reports of harm as we can that are eligible to be submitted to the site. 

CPSC Should Redesign and Clean Up Parts of the Website and Ease the Reporting Process

The overall design of SaferProducts.gov can be improved in several ways to help make the site easier to use and more readily understandable by consumers and other potential submitters. In particular, we recommend making reporting links as prominent as possible; establishing greater integration between CPSC.gov and SaferProducts.gov; starting the reporting process immediately from the SaferProducts.gov homepage; designing an infographic to help consumers understand the reporting process better; and introducing automated texting or chat-window capabilities to allow additional convenient ways to file reports.

CPSC Should Improve Data Source Integration and Public Availability of Reports

CPSC’s data is high-quality and includes many sources, but rarely is it presented to the public in a unified manner that draws on all relevant sources. It would be helpful to safety researchers for SaferProducts.gov data to be presented alongside other data sources to get a fuller and more complete picture of a hazard to consumers.

We strongly urge the CPSC to review current practices and procedures to ensure that they promote maximum public availability of reports and follow statutory requirements applying to the timeliness of public disclosure of reports submitted to SaferProducts.gov. We would be very concerned if a significant number of reports that users wish to be made public are being withheld or delayed from publication under conditions broader than those included in the statute. 

Conclusion

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. We look forward to continuing to work with the CPSC to develop and implement enhancements to SaferProducts.gov that would bolster product safety and help protect consumers, including by increasing reports of harm, taking steps to redesign and clean up parts of the website and ease the reporting process, and improving data source integration and the public availability of SaferProducts.gov data.

For the full testimony, click here.