If you routinely scan social media for complaints about your business or product, come March you’ll need to add another site to the list. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is now beta testing a new website that will allow consumers to list their complaints publicly. The site is called SaferProducts.gov and AdAge calls it “Yelp with the imprimatur of government authority.”
The site will focus only on product safety issues and complaints will be screened before they go live, but don’t expect too many of the posts to get tossed. The CPSC says, all comments “that meet the minimum requirements for publication in the Database will be disclosed in the Database.” The legalese that follows is pretty extensive but it all boils down to what the screener considers to be reasonable. Which means, unless a consumer sends in a blatantly outrageous claim, it’s likely to get published.
Once the claim goes live, the CPSC will attempt to contact the businesses associated with the product and they’ll have ten days to write their rebuttal which will be published next to the claim.
As AdAge puts it, “the burden of proof there lies with the manufacturer.”
No one wants to see a child injured by a faulty toy or a death due to incorrectly manufactured tires, but given our propensity to sue our fellow man, this database sounds like it has the potential to get out of hand and fast. It’s one thing to see a complaint on Yelp about a plumber who arrived an hour late and another thing entirely to see an injury claim on a government website. No matter what kind of disclaimers they put in the fine print, people are going to assume that these complaints were vetted. It is a dot gov website after all, so that means there’s authority behind the words. Or rather, there should be.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is a small office that already handles thousands of complaints every year, maybe millions. If even a small fraction of those complaints end up on the public website, it’s going to be damage control time for a lot of companies both big and small.
What do you think of the idea of putting CPSC complaints online? Is public safety more important than a company’s reputation? And as a marketer, are you prepared to handle a sudden wave of very public complaints?