Dangerous, recalled toys can still be found online during the holiday shopping season, consumer advocates warn

Before everyone starts piling toys into their real lives and online shopping carts this Black Friday, Illinois consumer advocates have a message: Be careful.

A number of dangerous, recalled toys are still readily available online, according to a new report from the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund discussed at a news conference at Lurie Children’s Hospital on Tuesday. The researchers behind the report searched for 16 toys that had been recalled and found 11 on the Facebook marketplace, eBay and some online toy stores.

“We were able to find toys that had been recalled days, weeks, months and even years after the recall,” said Abe Scarr, director of the Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

The toys included Army action figures that were recalled last month for excessive levels of phthalates and lead; a colorful looped toy that was recalled as a choking hazard; and a play tent recalled because it did not meet industry flammability standards, according to the report. Other recalled items included a toddler rideable toy, bath toy and a stuffed animal.

According to the report, nearly 200,000 people, including 79,000 children ages 4 and under, went to the emergency room for toy-related injuries in 2020.

“Recalled products should have no place in our markets or in our homes,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of the Chicago-based advocacy group Kids in Danger. “The sad news about most of these recalls that you see here today, along with those in the guide, will almost all remain in use and in homes because companies do such a lousy job of warning families about recalls.”

She said she would like to see companies treat recalls the same way they do marketing toys, for example by trying to reach consumers through social media ads and influencers.

“Parents may not hear about a recall if they don’t listen or watch the news on that particular day,” she said.

She said it’s alarming that investigators were able to find so many recalled toys online. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, federal law prohibits anyone from selling recalled products.

Investigators behind the report said that after they already received some of the toys, eBay sent an email to warn them that the toys had been recalled and not usable. Four other sellers canceled the purchases before the items shipped.

None of the other sellers alerted investigators that the toys had been recalled, the report said.

In a statement, eBay said: “Bay is working closely with a range of regulatory agencies around the world to promote product safety and protect consumers from unsafe products. We take product recalls very seriously and are keeping notice of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. ) to ensure that recalled items are blocked or removed. We are pleased that the PIRG team has received one of our recall notices, demonstrating our commitment to monitoring and informing consumers about recalls.”

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said Tuesday that its policy prohibits the sale of recalled items and that it is working with advocacy groups, manufacturers, governments and regulators to identify recalled items. Facebook enforces its commerce policies through its commerce rating system, which is largely automated and reviews listings for items before they go live.

Investigators were unable to locate any of the recalled toys on Amazon.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told investigators it expanded its team that deals with online commerce in the past year and filed more than 54,000 Internet “takedown requests,” the report said.

Parents and others shopping for toys this holiday season can do their part by being vigilant and watching for red flags, consumer advocates and doctors said Tuesday.

If someone has trouble finding a toy that is in high demand, and then suddenly finds it for a low price, it could mean that the toy is counterfeit. Counterfeit toys are counterfeit branded toys that may not meet mandatory U.S. safety standards.

Shoppers can also determine if a toy is a choking hazard by seeing if it fits through the center of a toilet paper tube. If it fits, it may not be safe for young children.

When buying used toys or donating old toys, parents should check for signs of wear and tear that could make toys unsafe, Scarr said.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office also urges parents, before shopping, to review the Safe Shopping Guide, which includes photos and descriptions of nearly 100 toys and children’s products that have been recalled.

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This story was originally published Nov 22, 2022 8:16 PM.

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