No matter how extensive your design process may be, it is almost impossible to foresee all product failure modes and eliminate them. Consumers think up new ways to use and abuse products that you never anticipate. And then there is the irritating intervention of physics -- no matter what you do, in some cases, glass will break, electrical connections will corrode and overheat, and water will leak.
Most information on product failures comes from consumers. Most manufacturers have a toll-free hotline staffed by call takers who can diagnose consumer problems and arrange for service if necessary.
Consumers can also complain to the Better Business Bureau, the local TV station or the countless blogs and websites that collect consumer complaints.
Now Congress has created a new public repository of consumer product complaints. The law passed in 2008 to respond to excessive lead in children's toys contained a requirement that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) implement a searchable electronic database of consumer complaints by March 2011.
Are you ready for it?
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