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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Consumer Safety and Recalls: Getting the Information Out

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According to results of a recent survey published in Parade Magazine (Sunday, October 2, 2011), fewer than 50 percent of Americans fill out paper product registration cards—and less than 25 percent of American consumers research product recalls online. How can Americans be protected from faulty– or even dangerous– products on the market? Jeff Gelles, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s business columnist, in his online posting October 30, 2011, says there are several ways consumers can become better informed about the products they purchase:

To check product recalls, you can go online to http://www.cpsc.gov or http://www.recalls.gov Both links will take you to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website for recalls. Consumers can register online to receive recall notices via email on a wide range of products they may purchase, including toys, appliances, infant and child furniture, power tools and more.

To report safety concerns or learn of problems other consumers may have with a product you have purchased or would like to purchase, you can also go to www.SaferProducts.gov, a website designed to “take and share product information with consumers” that the CPSC brought online in March 2011.

If a consumer purchases “durable infant and toddler products”, such as cribs, car seats, baby carriages, strollers or bassinets, consumer protection measures signed into law in 2008 ensure that parents learn about recalls before faulty or dangerous products cause injuries or deaths. When you buy a durable infant or toddler product, it should include a product registration card that, when filled out and returned (by mail or online), registers you with the manufacturer. In the event of a problem with the product, the company knows how to contact you about the product. The continuing public outcry over products that place children at risk generated this unique level of protection for products which should be safe and trustworthy. So, from Jeff Gelles’ point of view, consumers should at least try to have faith that there is a reason to fill out product registration cards. For some products, especially technology-oriented items, Gelles says you still need to watch the news and listen for any faulty-product type of information, look for the hotline numbers and contact the company if your product has problems or fails to do what it is supposed to do.

As one would guess, some manufacturers are not totally happy about the CPSC consumer products database website and continue to lobby against it. One anonymous company has even taken the government to court. Recently, Gelles says a “Company Doe” filed a lawsuit against the CPSC in Maryland. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO, formerly the Government Accounting Office) evaluated the website and found that some product reports contained “materially inaccurate” or incomplete information. Now, the CPSC is required to get make, model, serial numbers and a photograph of products being recalled. All things considered, with the internet at many of our fingertips, it seems as if many consumers (but not enough) are taking advantage of the greater access to more information about the products they purchase by checking www.SaferProducts.gov and other government websites including www.nhtsa.gov and www.cpsc.gov. Hopefully, through more education and awareness, more consumers will become aware of the resources available through the internet, which they can access through a local library if they do not own a computer.