Safe at any speed?

Forty four years ago Ralph Nader published the classic consumer report “Unsafe at any speed”. He argued that product safety needed to be the responsibility of manufacturers and government. We have had huge advances since then, as a direct result of campaigning by the consumer movement. But what happens to all the information about products that are not safe? The next step is to be able to get this information out into the public domain.

At present, information on products that are recalled for safety reasons is kept out of the public domain, stored online in ways that search engines can never reach. As a result, consumers who search for products never know that it may have been withdrawn. The new Product Recall site from Consumer Focus Labs, the first from our online innovation programme, opens this up.

The idea of giving consumers access to information that experts have is core to the history of the consumer movement. Product ratings, for example, started in USA and Britain after pioneers like Michael Young saw that government agencies were rating products that they had to buy in bulk. He saw the opportunity to democratise that.

Consumer Focus Labs is a collaborative programme, using open source code, and while I believe this first site could be a landmark step, it is only the beginning for what we believe can be done for consumers by opening up data. You can follow us on twitter – or if you can use, link to or have ideas to add to the product recall site, let us know!

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