SaferProducts.gov has a soft launch. There’s still time to prepare.

Are you ready for SaferProducts.gov? This website is in the Soft Launch phase and accepting reports starting today. The website will contain the “Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database (Database)” collected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The good news is that the CPSC will be testing the Database functionality first before it makes Reports available to the public for search and review.

This is but a brief reprieve for manufacturers and retailers as the Database will be disclosed when SaferProducts.gov is officially launched in March, 2011. SaferProducts.gov was developed by the CPSC to fulfill Section 6A of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), as amended by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Through this website consumers and other Database users will be able to submit “reports of harm” (Reports, with a capital R!) describing a (perceived) harm or risk of harm related to the use of a consumer product. Other users will be able to search and review these reports, or add their own Report, if they’d like.

Manufacturers, importers, and private labelers will have an opportunity to comment on the Reports that identify them and their products, and may choose to comment in the Database in response.

There is a lot of controversy associated with the Database that can be explored further. Yet, for now, businesses need to know that the CPSC is encouraging you to register an account on the new Business Portal. By registering, you will be able to receive electronic notice of Reports and you can work with the online commenting feature. More importantly, you can test your internal procedures now.

The Business Portal also allows for online submission of a claim that the Report contains materially inaccurate and/or confidential information. Signing up for an account during the Soft Launch may be the best good time to experiment with the site and determine how it works. At the least, you’ll want to consider how the Database will affect your company and identify the appropriate internal and/or external resources to monitor Reports involving your products and who should be authorized to respond to them.

Not to be cynical, but…competitors who wish to log complaints against other manufacturers and products, or lawyers representing plaintiffs in products liability claims, are best off waiting until the official launch because the CPSC has confirmed that it will not disclose the information entered into the Database (from consumers or businesses) before the official launch.