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Consumer database survives budget deal

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The controversial online consumer complaint database launched by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in March escaped the budget axe for now, according to House legislative language released today.

The database had been targeted by freshman Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, who in February attached a successful amendment (H.Amdt.159) to the appropriations bill to defund the database. Pompeo's top campaign contributor is Kansas-based Koch Industries, which had lobbied on the database when the legislation to create it was debated, as we reported last month. His chief of staff, Mark Chenoweth, formerly worked for Koch Industries and was chief legal counsel for Anne Northup, a Republican CPSC commissioner who has opposed the new database.

The House legislative language (Sec. 1574) does contain a requirement that the General Accountability Office conduct a study of the database and report on its implementation within 180 days.

The database is designed to allow anybody to report a safety complaint with household products--and to search comments submitted by others. Since the launch, the agency has received more than 600 reports, 98 percent of them submitted by consumers. Some 200 are now available for viewing on the website--SaferProducts.gov. Comments are available within 15 business days after the agency receives them.

Opponents of the database have argued that companies could be unfairly targeted or maligned in the database. However, manfacturers mentioned in complaints may submit comments that are also available to the public online. The agency also has the power to correct or remove complaints shown to be inaccurate, and has received 44 such complaints so far, most involving the wrong manufacturer being named in the complaint.