eBay Bans Deadly Products from Site; Works Closely With Consumer Product Safety Commission

Richard Brewer-Hay

It’s no secret that I’ve made online trust & safety a key topic of discussion here on Ink recently going so far as to enlist the contributions of eBay’s Online Safety Advisor, Rich LaMagna, to weigh in from time to time on policies and best practices. With that in mind, when I learned eBay Security Centerthat we assisted in enforcing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) recall of Simplicity bassinets and Magnetix toys, I wanted to learn more.

I was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Scott Wolfson of the CPSC to find out more about the recent recalls and how online consumers can keep up to speed on product recalls and consumer safety.

Thanks for taking the time to speak today, before we talk about the recent bans, can you provide a quick overview of what your agency focuses on?

Sure. Thanks for having me. CPSC is the federal regulatory agency for the government working to protect families both in and around their home. There are about 15,000 products that we oversee in our role as a regulatory agency. We cover a wide-range of consumer goods: from toaster ovens, to toys, to clothing and furniture. We are a safety-based agency that conducts recalls, safety standards and works to educate families about what they can do to keep their homes safe.

How do you work with online marketplaces like eBay?

In the past year, the two big areas that we have been working closest with eBay on, particularly heading into this holiday season, is juvenile products and children’s toys. Examples include Simplicity bassinets, Delta cribs and Magnetix toys… even a Nerf blaster (a very high-profile recent recall). These are high-profile products in large supply involved in a recall so it is much more likely that a consumer, who probably didn’t even know the product was recalled, will potentially create an auction or online sale via eBay. So the direct relationship that we’ve had in place with eBay for sometime now, and that has grown even stronger in recent months, allows CPSC staff to bring specific products to eBay’s attention so that they can put keywords into a filter to block that transaction. One of CPSC’s biggest concerns is to have dangerous or deadly product being passed along between unsuspecting consumers and to have eBay establish these filters to prevent that transaction is incredibly beneficial to product safety.

I know that eBay has a weekly recall notice that goes up on the Announcement Board every Thursday and, in addition to banning both Simplicity and Magnetix products on the site, eBay also contacted sellers who had sold Simplicity bassinets and cribs within the last six months to let them know of the recall. This seems pretty positive and proactive in terms of educating the consumer. Is it enough?

The decision by eBay to ban any future transactions involving those two products is a tremendous boon to product safety and child safety across the country. These are two potentially deadly products; Magnetix has caused one fatality and Simplicity bassinets have caused two. It is a proactive safety move by eBay and we applaud it. It helps better define what the online sellers and buyers should be doing in order to ensure safe transactions. CPSC will continue to advocate that consumers take a moment to come to CPSC’s website to quickly check and see if a particular product has been recalled before it goes out for sale. But for there to be a policy decision by eBay to prohibit two entire product lines is a tremendous benefit to safety.

Is eBay the only online retailer to do this?

Yes. We have an online surveillance team that checks a number of online retailers and other sites but this is the first time we have heard an online marketplace make such a definitive, sweeping safety decision.

What can consumers do to stay informed?

I can’t stress enough to every eBay user how easy it is for them to take a few minutes to check cpsc.gov to see if a product has been recalled already. And it doesn’t have to end there. Be proactive and sign up for the CPSC email alert of all recalls so you’re constantly up to date.

And with that last comment from Scott I put my parenting hat on. It is my responsibility as a parent to do as much homework as possible when it comes to buying anything for my little girls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see that there are these tools in place from agencies like the CPSC and that eBay is working closely with them but if I’m not going to take advantage of that then – as trite as it sounds – shame on me. Shame on me for wasting their efforts to inform and, more importantly, shame on me for putting myself and my family at risk. I don’t care where the information is coming from – CPSC, eBay, Amazon or Craigslist – if there is information out there that helps me make a sensible online purchasing decision, I have a responsibility and need to use it.