Why are recalled products still ending up on our shelves? Here is how you can stay safe.
Recalled products continue to remain in the market and end up in consumers' homes causing additional injuries, according to an advocacy group's analysis of recall data.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, which analyzed the number of recalls issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, is calling on federal regulators and lawmakers to examine regulations that can slow removal of products from the market.
The group's “Safe at Home” report found 292 recall announcements – a 33% increase in 2022, compared to years prior. Of those, 65 recalls involved 652 injuries and six deaths.
Product recalls are tied to “serious incidents” and injuries, which in some cases, can take years to pull the product off the market. Companies are required to disclose incidents if their product injures, could potentially injure or kill someone, doesn’t comply with consumer product safety rules, requires a consumer to seek medical intervention, or is facing a lawsuit.
Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog and author of the report, said when it comes to taking harmful products off the market, companies should notify the commission within 24 hours of the incident, but sometimes don't.
She cites Peloton as example, which just agreed to pay a $19 million fine to the commission after the company knowingly didn't self-report entrapment incidents from December 2018 to 2019 involving their treadmill. By the time Peloton notified the commission, a child had died, 13 people had broken bones, lacerations, friction burns and there were 150 reports of people, pets and objects getting pulled under the treadmill. A recall didn't take place until May 5, 2021.
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"There are clearly some companies that need to do better," Murray said.
Murray said Congress should revoke a provision known as Section 6(b), that prohibits the commission "from disclosing information about a consumer product that identifies a manufacturer or private labeler."
The provision also requires the commission to give the company an "opportunity to comment on the accuracy of the information."
“If Section 6(b) were to be repealed, then CPSC would be freer to warn people when they have gotten a lot of complaints about something … and go and issue recalls,” Murray said. “They’re very reluctant to do that because they have to jump through all these legal hoops.”
How do I know if I have a recalled product?
You may have unknowingly bought a recalled product at a big-box store, Amazon, eBay, Facebook marketplace, or some other online retailer, where it's easy for these products to pop up.
CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric, told Murray that "secondary market sales continue to be a problem, but there is a team of people at the commission monitoring these marketplaces, and removing the recalled and banned items. Last year, the team removed 57,800 products from these websites.
If you want to know whether you have a recalled product on your hands, the Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps a database of recalled products, and also allows consumers to receive recall notices emailed right to their inbox.
In the report, Murray also recommends that consumers register their information with the company, especially if it is an expensive item with warranty claims, that way the company can contact the consumer directly.
How can I report if a product is defective or unsafe?
Reporting that a product is unsafe or defective helps keep other consumers safe.
One way to report is to go back to the company from which you purchased the product, and notify them of the defect.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission also takes in confidential reports on toys, electronics, furniture and appliances.
If a company does not respond, a consumer complaint also can be sent to the Better Business Bureau, but the BBB is not a federal agency and lacks enforcement authority.
Unsure where you need to report?
There are other federal agencies that handle reports on aircraft, amusement rides, cars, boats and chemical safety and more, that do not fall under the commission's jurisdiction.
Amritpal Kaur Sandhu-Longoria is the consumer watchdog investigative reporter on USA TODAY’s Money team. Send her your tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AmritpalKSL, or on Signal at (279) 789-2462.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to find out about product recalls or report an unsafe product?