A recent decision from a Maryland federal court places limits on an online database of consumer product information maintained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The website, SaferProducts.gov, contains reports of injuries or other damages related to consumer products. A company, after the CPSC denied its request to remove a report about one of its products it claimed was incorrect, filed an anonymous lawsuit to enjoin publication of the report. The court ruled in Company Doe v. Tenenbaum, No. 8:11-cv-02958, slip op. (D. Md., Oct. 22, 2012), that the CPSC may not publish the report on the website. It also offered guidance to businesses, which should also be of interest to consumers and their attorneys, regarding objections to records in the database.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) directed the CPSC to create an online database, accessible to the public, containing information of consumer product safety. 15 U.S.C. § 2055a. The database was to consist of reports of damage or injury submitted by consumers; information provided by government entities, public safety organizations, medical providers, and childcare providers; CPSC notices regarding hazardous products; and comments received on existing records. Id.at § 2055a(b)(1). Information submitted by consumers is required, according to the statute, to include a description of the product and identification of the manufacturer, a description of the claimed injury or damage, the identity of the consumer submitting the report, and a verification that the consumer is submitting true and correct information. Id. at § 2055a(b)(2)(B). The CPSC must submit reports to the manufacturer or labeler identified in the report, and allow them an opportunity to make comments or objections.