Despite all the hand-wringing on our part, we consumers don’t actually participate in recalls at a very high level. This leaves both manufacturers and the CPSC in the dark about whether their warnings are reaching the right people—which is why the House approved a bill this Tuesday that would require manufacturers of certain infant and toddler products to keep registration info on their customers.
Here are a couple of examples of how poorly we participate. Last year, Target recalled nearly 200,000 units of lead-tainted Kool Toyz. They received only 766, less than 1%. And this year, they recalled 5,000 Anima Bamboo Collector Games—and none were returned. Mattel averages a 6% return rate. (The one exception in the article is RC2, which says it managed to get 70% of their defective train products returned by September.)
A lot of parents simply throw out the products, which is a lot less work than returning them to the store or manufacturer, especially when current recall announcements make the effort for busy parents seem like too much of a hassle. The CPSC says the problem with that is it doesn’t provide them with data they need to fine-tune future recalls.
But because most industries rely on the media to get the word out about recalls, there’s no guarantee the right people will hear the right information before it’s swallowed up by the next cycle of stories. In fact, the new bill is named after 16-month-old who smothered in a defective crib that was recalled five years previously, but his parents and the caretakers at the daycare center where the accident occurred had never heard about the recall.
According to some safety advocates, the best solution would be to piggy-back on motor vehicle registration:
Consumers would be better served if the registration required when they buy a car or truck were extended to other products. That way, they would get a letter when an item was recalled. Vehicle recall response rates are among the highest, at about 72% in recent years, said Eric Bolton, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In the meantime, however, you can submit your email to the CPSC to receive alerts whenever a recall is issued, which (we hate to say it) is probably a better way to stay up-to-date than reading about it here.
“Many recalled, few returned” [LA Times]