Public Database Created for Consumer Complaints

Feb 03, 2011
Bernice Hurst

As usual, there are at least
two sides to every story.

National, non-profit, Washington D.C.-based public
interest organization Public Citizen is endorsing a database of consumer complaints
to be launched in March by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC).

to The Washington Post, the new database has been "hailed
by consumer advocates as a resource that will revolutionize the way people
make buying decisions."

Amongst those less than pleased, "major
manufacturing and industry groups have raised concerns … saying it may
be filled with fictitious slams against their brands. Competitors or others
with political motives could post inaccurate claims, business leaders say,
and the agency will not be able to investigate most of the complaints." One
specific objection is a concern that those without direct experience of products,
including lawyers and members of organized groups, are allowed to make contributions.

now, consumers have had to file public records requests to see information
gathered about problems. The CSPC was required to consult with manufacturers
who were entitled to prevent disclosure. Recalls of dangerous products had
to be negotiated and could take "months or years" during which
time they were still on sale. The Post says that "under the new
system, a complaint filed by a consumer will be posted for anyone to read within
15 days."

In the future, consumer complaints "will be posted for
anyone to read within 15 days. … The CPSC then has five days to notify the
manufacturer, which in turn has 10 days to respond. A company can challenge
the complaint as false, argue that it will give away a trade secret, or submit
a response. The response will be published alongside the complaint in the database.
If a company says a complaint is false or would disclose confidential business
information, the CSPC will decide whether to withhold or publish the complaint."

must identify themselves, but their details won’t be published
or disclosed without permission. It is said "the database will not include
peeves about reliability or quality, only information about defects that can
cause injury or death."

Discussion Questions: How will having a centralized, consolidated, public database of consumer complaints from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) affect brands and retailers?

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4 Comments on "Public Database Created for Consumer Complaints"

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Fabien Tiburce
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 3 months ago

What this really means is that manufactures need to review and step up their complaint management systems and processes internally preemptively. Make sure your software is capable, your processes are in place and that you have created sufficient accountability and incentives for complaints to be addressed promptly and satisfactorily.

My company has just released a SaaS based complaint management module, and while the timing with this announcement is coincidental, it has become obvious that customer complaints are part of a 360 degree view of store performance and also a potent risk-mitigation strategy in this day of social networking where bad news travels fast.

When it comes to customers’ complaints, the best strategy is to be prepared, quick and proactive.

Roger Saunders
10 years 3 months ago

What a bonanza–for trial lawyers that is.

The Public Citizen Group, which is seeking to muscle the compliant Consumer Product Safety Commission bureacracy, has a five step program. You can choose your own interpretation of what these groups do:

1. Congress Watch — sounds like a lobbying group of Attorneys
2. Energy Program — hmmm, you make the call as to your satisfaction of the Energy program in this country
3. Global Trade Watch — Retail, along with manufacturers have made the transition to a Global Economy. Public Citizen is working to cut it off
4. Health Research Group — yet another headache for pharmaceuticals who have to hire more lobbyist to counteract this group
5. Litigation Group — Oh, I get it, this group gets to create lawsuits

Follow the money. This is not a move that retailers should embrace.

Ralph Jacobson
10 years 3 months ago

Even if the organizers of this effort have only the best intentions–that is, to provide a resource for genuinely frustrated consumers–this new entity has the potential to create unwarranted damage to brands. However, that potential already exists on the web through current social media outlets. The challenge is to know what the public sentiment is literally at any one moment in time. Be it in this new repository of consumer complaints and/or throughout the web. If a company knows about a wave of coordinated negative sentiment that is growing, proactive true “brand reputation management” can take place in near real time. Not days or weeks after the fact.

A coordinated response to any potentially damaging comments can nip the threat in the bud. The good news is that there is comprehensive technology available right now that premier companies are utilizing to do just that.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
10 years 3 months ago

It is said “the database will not include peeves about reliability or quality, only information about defects that can cause injury or death.” Well GIVE US A BREAK! The only reason I would look at a site like this is to get information on reliability or quality. I long for more consumer review of products. Consumer Reports (they never met a BMW they didn’t love) tends to be biased. However, I think the CPSC already does a decent job recalling cribs and strollers. I see one of these every other week.


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