Using Consumer Product Safety Records to Vet a Business

When vetting a company or business that manufactures a product, one important resource is to submit a FOIA request to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for any complaints related to the company.  While the CPSC provides some statistics and general information online, more specific inquiries must be done on a case-by-case basis. A recent Los Angeles Times article highlighted the importance of this.  After acquiring Rose Art Industries Inc. in early 2006, the Canadian company Mega Brands Inc. found out that Rose Art's Magnetix play set was responsible for 25 intestinal injuries and one death in 2005 caused by dislodged magnets.  Mega Brands recently paid a $1.1 million civil penalty related to the defective toy.

Although Rose Art claimed to have disclosed all relevant company information, Mega Brands allegedly did not know about the hazards associated with Magnetix.  Even if Mega Brands did submit a FOIA request for complaints related to Rose Art's products, a response from the CPSC could have taken several months.  The death occured in November 2005 (only two months prior to the merger), but Mega Brands would have at least learned about various complaints related to Magnetix from 2004 and early 2005.  Magnetix was eventually recalled, but it took an additional four months to get it off of the store shelves even after a death had occured.

Vetting a Business Acquisition Can Be a Lengthy Process

Submitting a FOIA request to any government department or agency can be a lengthy process.  While some requests will be filled in several days, others may take months (as with the CPSC).  Thus, when preparing for business deals or when learning more about a company, relevant FOIA requests should be submitted well in advance of when a decision must be made.