ABC News Investigation Finds Recalled Products Still in Homes and Sold Online

ABC News Investigation Finds Recalled Products Still in Homes and Sold Online
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November 24, 2014

An ABC News investigation found that potentially dangerous recalled products are still in people's homes and in many cases, being sold online.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairman Elliot Kaye specifically called out Craigslist for failing to police its website, where consumers commonly sell recalled items.

Undercover reporters from more than 15 ABC affiliates around the country were able to buy recalled products, like Bumbo baby seats, storage trunks and dehumidifiers using the website. Many time, the sellers did not know the products had been recalled.

It's illegal to buy or sell a recalled product.

Amazon and eBay have controls in place that prohibit sellers from listing recalled products. While Craigslist prohibits the sale of recalled items, it offers no filters to keep the items from being posted. Kaye said the company was morally irresponsible for allowing the sales to continue.

Since the investigation, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster issued a public letter to Kaye expressing his disappointment that the company was targeted, but asked that Kaye come to California so the two could discuss how the website could assist in addressing product recalls.

With recall compliance being a measly 5 percent, millions of products are still sitting in people's homes. Many consumers, like those interviewed by ABC News reporters didn't know the products had been recalled. Consumer advocates Nancy Cowles and Linda Ginzel for the group Kids in Danger told ABC News that manufacturers and retailers could do more to notify the public, using the same social media campaigns they deploy to market the product in the first place.

The investigation can be found here.

Buying Safely

Consumers often use Craigslist to buy used items at a lower cost or sell items without the hassle of a yard sale. This has also lead to the proliferation of similar yard sale groups on social media, where members buy and sell used items in much the same way.

A responsible seller would make sure the product he or she is about to sell doesn't have an active recall listing, but it's also up to the buyer to do his or her due diligence.

Before buying a product online, ask the seller if the product has been recalled and if so, has it been remedied. If the seller responds no, don't take their word for it. Ask for the model and serial number so you can do some further investigating.

Search the CPSC website for recall notices as all consumer product recalls are posted on the website. The search function isn't perfect so this is where the model and serial number will come in handy. A Google search of the product may also yield results.

When in doubt, contact the manufacturer's customer service department.

To stay abreast of recalls, you add your email to the CPSC recall mailing list.

If you have the opportunity to register a product, do so. If the company issues a recall, it can reach out to you directly. This also isn't perfect, however. Sometimes recall notices arrive well after the recall was announced, but you will get eventual notice. If you buy a used product it is likely that any registration may still be under the name of the previous owner. You can call the manufacturer to update the contact information.