The ABC's Of Recall Response
FAQS of Product Recalls From Recall Experts We Make It Safer/Bellomy Recall
- What is a product recall?
- Why do recalls occur?
- Is it likely that I own a recalled product?
- What should I know about secondhand products?
- Isn't it illegal to sell products? Why do I need to check?
- How do I check for recalls on secondhand items?
- What should I do to stay on top of recalls?
By definition, the word “recall” means “to call back” or “return.” In the United States, however, a product recall indicates that a potential safety hazard or violation was discovered, and some form of corrective action must be taken to rectify the problem. That action, also known as a remedy, may or may not involve returning the product. Often, there is a simple fix that the manufacturer or retailer can provide to alleviate the safety concern.
In general, recalls occur when the CPSC, working with a manufacturer, determines that a product may pose an unexpected safety risk. For instance, you won’t see a recall on a bicycle because your child might fall off (expected), but you might see a recall on a bicycle where the brakes fail (unexpected). This is an example of an unexpected risk due to a defect. Other problems might include things like parts that break unexpectedly or sharp edges being where they shouldn’t be.
Unexpected risks can also occur when there is a violation of a safety standard, rule or law. Some examples include missing warning labels, excessive levels of lead, or drawstrings on children’s clothing. Programs like JPMA’s certification program go a long way to protecting against these types of recalls on baby gear because they ensure the manufacturer is aware of all the rules and is following them. Mistakes can occur, but this type of recall is much less likely for products that are certified.
Lastly, sometimes products are recalled for risks that are so unexpected that they were completely unforeseen, sometimes even by those who write the safety standards. This can happen when parents do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions or use the product in a way that was never intended. In these cases, manufacturers may conduct a recall “out of an abundance of caution,” despite following all the rules and testing their products thoroughly. It is a good reminder to us all that we need to follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid unnecessary risks.
Yes… and no. The chance of you owning a recalled product is HIGH. The chance of you owning a specific recalled product is LOW. This is what makes recalls a difficult problem for parents.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues about 400 recalls per year, on average. Around 170 (43%) of them are typically for children’s products, accounting for 28 Million individual units.
Compared to the billions of children’s products sold each year, it is a small number, but it means that the average US household with children aged 12 and younger will own at least one of the products recalled by the CPSC in a given year.
Over time, that can add up, and the probability of owning a recalled product increases for households with children under five. It is higher still for households with children under three. Couple that with the fact that most parents do not learn about recalls on the items they own, and it becomes a bigger problem than it might at first seem, especially as those products change owners.
Historically, 80% of recalled products are never returned or fixed. Many of those items continue to be used and are later passed on – often via yard sales, thrift stores and online marketplaces. It means that your chances of owning a recalled product can increase when secondhand items are purchased, handed down or borrowed from friends, as is common practice for baby gear.
All is not lost, though. Buying secondhand or using hand-me-downs can be a great cost-saving measure and is definitely good for the environment, just not at the expense of safety. Therefore, in addition to following these safety tips to ensure items meet current safety standards, it is extremely important to check for recalls when buying or using secondhand baby gear. In most cases, the item will be safe, but the impact of not identifying a potential hazard results in unnecessary risk of injury to you or your child.
Yes. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) made it illegal to sell recalled products. Unfortunately, most parents who sell unneeded children’s items simply don’t know about the recalls. For liquidators and resale stores selling thousands of secondhand products a day, making sure none of them has been recalled is even harder.
Secondhand items are most often out-of-box and no longer have their unique identifiers such as SKUs and UPCs. Even if they did, it is rare for this information to be included in publicly available recall data. WeMakeItSafer has developed new technology to help solve this problem, but until every reseller is actively monitoring for recalls, buyers must be diligent.
Unless the sales description specifically says that the item has been checked for recalls, or includes a WeMakeItSafer Safety Seal and valid certificate indicating as such, your best bet is to check for recalls yourself before buying a secondhand item.
Manufacturers are now required to list recalls on their websites when they occur. If an item is relatively new, that can be a good place to start. However, they are not required to keep recalls on the site indefinitely, so do not assume that, just because you don’t see a recall listed, one did not occur.
Because it is difficult to know how long ago a product was sold new, it is also a good idea to check at WeMakeItSafer.com or CPSC.gov. Both organizations also have mobile tools to help you check for recalls when shopping at places like thrift stores and garage sales. The CPSC has an android app that users can install on android phones, and WeMakeItSafer has an app that works on any platform by simply visiting WeMakeItSafer.com from your mobile phone.
Register! The best way to make sure the items you own have not been recalled is to register them. Durable infant and toddler products, including most baby gear items, are now required by law to come with recall-only product registration cards and online registration forms. That means, the manufacturer is not allowed to use your information for any purpose other than recall notification.
If you choose not to register your products with the manufacturer, or the product does not have a registration program, you can use “Items I Own” by WeMakeItSafer to register all of your belongings for recall alerts in one place. Because Items I Own checks for past recalls as well as monitoring for future ones, it is especially helpful for secondhand products.
Remember, staying on top of recalls will not only protect your family now, it will protect others when you decide to give away or sell your belongings down the line.