How the CPSC keeps consumers safe from products that get recalled

In order to ensure the news gets spread far and wide, CPSC uses multiple methods to let consumers know about a recall.

“The most important part of a recall is getting to the consumer… we will work that out with the business who is participating in the recall with us, because they know best how to contact their consumer,” Buerkle said. “We’ll do press releases. We’ll try to get the media’s attention, because they can help us. Or we use Twitter and Facebook.”

Still, consumer advocates wish the government and companies did more to let consumers know.

“Recalls are not as effective as they could be. We wish more consumers learned about them… retailers don’t want to spend the money, don’t want to shame themselves by promoting the recall heavily,” said Ed Mierzwinski, the consumer program director for U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group.

Last year, Ikea recalled 29 million dressers after 4 children died when they fell over, an incident Mierzwinski cited as an example where consumers could have been better informed.

“Only about less than 500,000 consumers either got a refund or wrote to Ikea and got some special screws to anchor it to the wall,” Mierzwinski said.

In a statement e-mailed to CNBC, an Ikea spokeswoman said, “… IKEA has been working with the CPSC on the recall of millions of MALM and other model chests and dressers that did not comply with the US voluntary industry.

The company “worked with the CPSC to develop a comprehensive plan that included national print, digital and television advertising, in-store and IKEA.com communication, media relations, social media promotion, outreach to IKEA Family members, and more,” the spokeswoman added. “Even now, more than a year later, we are proactively reaching out to customers to communicate the recall.”

Here are some tips to find out if products you have at home are recalled:

  • The government keeps a list of product recalls online. For CPSC recalls, go to cpsc.gov. Also, try recalls.gov for recalls across agencies.
  • You should also fill out registration cards that come with products. That way companies know who to contact in case of issues.
  • Be wary when buying items directly from overseas, like China. “The challenge is always companies overseas Chinese manufacturers who are not aware of our regulations and try to bring product in that doesn’t comply,” Buerkle said.
  • Also be weary of resale websites. While it is illegal to sell a recalled product, consumers sometimes unknowingly do. You should check the product with online recall lists before buying.

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