The Consumer Product Safety Commission approved creation of a database for consumer complaints, ending two years of wrangling with manufacturers and business groups over the project.
Commissioners voted 3 to 2 on Wednesday to get the database up and running by March on the website SaferProducts.gov.
The database will allow consumers to submit reports of harm or potential harm caused by a wide variety of products. After commission officials review each report, manufacturers will be given 10 days to respond to or challenge the submission.
Creation of the database was required as part of the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, but business lobbyists attempted to limit the amount of information available to consumers.
"The database should be welcomed not just by those with a mission to protect consumers but also by companies that produce consumer products," commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum said.
"We believe that responsible companies that produce or sell consumer products will have the opportunity to use this new resource to inform their quality control programs and ensure that safer products are available on store shelves," she said.
The commission rejected an alternative proposal from its two Republican members that would have reduced the scope of what could be posted and seen in the database.
Consumer advocates welcomed the move, saying it will allow people to check on products before they buy them and give regulators a chance to act faster to curb dangerous products.
"Consumers deserve to know the safety record of the products they buy," said Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for Consumers Union. "This database will be a great tool for consumers, and it has the necessary safeguards against incorrect information."
But Rosario Palmieri, vice president of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, said the database would be "filled with bogus reports inspired by political or financial motives rather than safety."
He said it's "now up to Congress to reclaim its authority and correct these errors."