You’ve just received news that a consumer’s experience with your product did not go as expected. They’ve called, e-mailed, left a review, or even sent a tweet about a negative experience. As you address the consumer’s concerns, it is important to recognize if any reportable safety issues have been raised. If so, there is certain information that should be collected in order to complete the required section 15(b) report to the CPSC, which is listed below. In working with clients that have received consumer complaints, we’ve identified some best practices for collecting the necessary data responsibly:

  1. Be transparent; tell consumers how and why you are collecting their data.
  2. Safeguard the data:
    • Back up your data in case your systems crash.
    • Have malware, antivirus software, and firewalls that protect from data breaches (and make sure it’s all up to date).
    • Have an emergency plan in the event of a data breach.
  3. Set data governance policies and guidelines.
    • Define acceptable uses of data, authorized access to data, and management of the data. Make sure they are up to date and make sense for your company and what you use your data for.
    • These policies and guidelines should be easily accessible on your website and social media sites.
  4. Maintain the data. The CPSC expects firms to maintain records of complaints, warranty returns, insurance claims, and product lawsuits.

Information that should be collected

  1. Incident Description: Include details such as how the product was being used, what happened to prompt the report, and any injuries that were sustained.
  2. Incident Date: If the actual date is unknown, an estimated or approximate date can be provided.
  3. Incident Location: Include the type of property and the location’s address.
  4. Consumer Contact Information: Include phone number, address, and e-mail address when possible.
  5. Product Information: Model number, serial number, and UPC code.
  6. Purchase Information: Include from where the product was purchased and the purchase date.
  7. Photographs: Include any photographs that inform the incident, such as photos of the product, the environment in which the incident occurred, and the injury or damage (if any) that resulted.
  8. Product Disposition Information: Include whether the consumer still has the product, if the product was damaged or modified before the incident, or if the product was modified before or after the incident.

More information for manufacturers, importers, retailers, and others in the regulated community regarding their reporting responsibilities and what steps should be taken after they’ve become aware of an issue can be found here in the CPSC’s Regulated Products Handbook.