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A new consumer complaints database is confronted this week by its first legal challenge when a company attempted to stop the federal agency that runs it from posting what the firm called as “baseless allegations” against its product.
The database, which was launched by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in March, is a Web site where consumers can review and report incidents that involve any of the thousands of products, from candles to refrigerators, which are being regulated by the agency.
The lawsuit filed against the CPSC marks the latest jab at the database by product manufacturers, as well as their allies in Congress, since the Web site was created three years ago as part of a broader measure of product-safety reform.
Critics claim that any erroneous information on the site unfairly threatens the profits of a company and misleads consumers.
However, consumer advocates say that the reporting system allows regulators, as well as consumers, to immediately spot and address any emerging hazards.
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in a Maryland federal district court, seeks to stop the CPSC from making public any incident which allegedly harmed a child. It also wants to keep under wraps any related documents and the company’s identity, describing it only as “Company Doe,” a maker or seller of consumer products.
The lawsuit stated that “To require the Plaintiff to proceed without the protection of an order sealing the case would in effect render Plaintiff’s injuries impossible to redress.”
The company revealed that another federal agency reported the incident to the commission and not the family of the child, raising privacy concerns.
The CPSC said that it plans to file a motion to unseal the case.