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Buyers cook up complaints about kitchen appliances

A recently released report indicates that kitchen appliances make up the bulk of product complaints listed in a government database. More than 30 percent of product safety complaints listed on relate to kitchen appliances. This category is comprised of electric ovens, ranges, dishwashers, refrigerators and microwaves. Other high-ranking items include nursery equipment, shoes and toys.

The database is approximately a year old. The site, administered by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, allows users to both submit and search complaints about a variety of consumer products.

Advocates say the database is beneficial to consumers because it helps catalog complaints that have not yet been processed through formal investigations. Agency representatives say that the site also benefits businesses listed in the complaints section because they are better able to understand consumers' experiences with the products. Critics of the database contend that deceptive information has been posted on the site, designed to frighten consumers and undermine legitimately safe products.

A Maryland company was the first firm to bring legal action against the site, alleging that the product complaints logged on the site are not supported by factual evidence. The company is seeking to halt comment publishing on the site because it has been unnecessarily harming business revenue and reputation. The commission argues that the complaints are legitimate because they screen the comments before they are posted, allowing business operators to respond to any complaints before publishing them online. Company responses are posted along with customer complaints.

About 6,500 complaints have been lodged so far, which equates to about 550 per month. Although those numbers may seem paltry, agency officials are excited to see comments related to many of the 15,000 items regulated by the CPSC. More than 95 percent of the complaints were filed by consumers, although some were also submitted by physicians, government agencies and public safety officials.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Kitchen Appliances Rank No. 1 in Product Safety Complaints," Jennifer C. Kerr, March 9, 2012

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