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Consumer Product Safety Commission: Action Needed to Strengthen Identification of Potentially Unsafe Products

GAO-12-30 Published: Oct 12, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 2011.
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In the wake of increased product recalls in 2007-2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Among other things, CPSIA requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to establish a database on the safety of consumer products that is publicly available, searchable, and accessible through the CPSC Web site. In response, CPSC launched in March 2011. The Department of Defense and Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 requires GAO to report on the data collected by CPSC in its safety information database. This report examines (1) the information required for submitting a report of harm to, (2) the information used to identify the product and to allow CPSC to review manufacturer claims of material inaccuracy in a report of harm, and (3) the length of time CPSC takes to review a manufacturer's claim that a report contains materially inaccurate information. To do this work, GAO analyzed agency data, regulations, and CPSC program documentation and interviewed CPSC staff and various industry and consumer representatives.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Consumer Product Safety Commission To effectively implement the recent amendments to CPSIA, the CPSC should enhance the analytic methods it uses to identify product information in a report of harm, such as by verifying whether the model field in its data contains a number (versus a text response, which would not meet the statutory requirement) or by searching for model numbers or serial numbers that may be listed in other fields.
Closed – Implemented
CPSC has enhanced its analytic methods to identify product information in a report of harm. On August 15, 2011, in response to HR 2715, CPSC staff first began reaching out to submitters by email or letter when incoming reports lacked model information and serial number. On September 15, 2011, CPSC staff implemented a strengthened analytical method for reviewing product model and serial number information contained in incoming reports of harm. As part of this strengthened method, CPSC moves model numbers provided in other parts of the report into the model field and seeks from submitters model number, serial number, and product photographs whenever the original report lacks numeric content in the both the model and serial number fields. Specifically, CPSC cited for reports received between March 11, 2011 and August 13, 2015, 87 percent or 22,521 of the 25,886 currently eligible reports have a non-blank value for model and/or serial number; 72 percent of currently eligible reports have some numeric content in the model and/or serial number. CPSC estimated that 69 percent or 17,861 of currently eligible reports have a valid model and/or serial number. The text requesting missing model and serial information is: "Thank you for submitting the attached Report. We note that you did not provide model or serial number at the time you submitted the report. Model, serial#, and photos are very important and can help the staff identify possible hazards more quickly. If you've since been able to locate this information or are able to do so at a later time, we would welcome an update to your report. We specifically request that you provide the model and/or serial number from the reported product when you are able. If there is no model/serial#, please submit a photo of the reported product. Please submit the requested model, serial#, or photos via one of the following methods: With the attached Consent page Or U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Attn: Clearinghouse Postal mail: 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814-4408 E-mail to: Facsimile: 1-855-221-6466 Thank you again for using"

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