CPSC Chair Challenges Craigslist: It’s Time To ‘Step Up’

PHOTO: Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, speaks with ABC News outside his San Francisco home in 2014.PlayABC News
WATCH Recall Roulette: The Flawed System Meant to Protect Your Family

The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a challenge to Craigslist to make its site safer for consumers following a joint investigation between ABC News and ABC affiliates across the country, which showed potentially hazardous recalled products for sale on the popular online ad site.

CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in a statement over the weekend that the ABC News investigation “independently corroborated the fact that Craigslist allows the sales of dangerous, recalled products.” He also wrote that the network’s reporting "also appears to have contributed to a potential new stance on safety by Craigslist.”

Kaye called Craigslist’s current efforts to thwart dangerous product resales “clearly not sufficient” but said that he looks forward to meeting with company representatives.

“To the extent that Craigslist is finally ready to step up in a genuine fashion to protect children from the sale of recalled products, my team is more than willing to work together with [Craigslist CEO] Mr. [Jim] Buckmaster's team. I look forward to receiving his letter and communicating with him directly on a possible path forward that will protect consumers, especially children,” wrote Kaye.

The joint investigation conducted by ABC News “20/20” and 17 local affiliates revealed the Craigslist site is loaded with items that are illegal to sell because they have been recalled for safety defects. Other major reseller sites, like eBay and Amazon, employ robust technological safeguards to flag or block posts of recalled products – measures Kaye said Craigslist refuses to match.

But after ABC News started asking questions, Kaye said it appears Craigslist may be changing their stance.

“I am aware that Craigslist has posted a letter regarding some new steps they finally plan to take to prevent the sale of recalled products—many of which can be deadly to children,” said Kaye. “I am hopeful that CPSC and Craigslist can work together to make the online marketplace far safer.”

Kaye’s statement was partly in response to an open letter posted online Friday by Buckmaster, which said that while he agrees the consumer product recall system is deeply flawed, he was “dismayed” by Kaye’s remarks in the ABC News reports, like when Kaye called the company “morally irresponsible” for not doing all it can to prevent the sale of recalled products.

PHOTO: Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Elliot Kaye speaks with ABC News.ABC News
Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Elliot Kaye speaks with ABC News.

“You rightly lamented to ABC [News] that for a typical recall, 95 [percent] of the recalled items are still in the hands of consumers 5 years after the recall notice… These figures are utterly shocking,” the letter from Buckmaster says. “Imagine our dismay when you and ABC ‘came out shooting’ at craigslist. Last we knew from your representatives, earlier this year, we were taking all appropriate steps to reduce the number of free classified ads for recall items by craigslist users.”

READ: Buckmaster's Open Letter to CPSC

Buckmaster invited Kaye to San Francisco to “discuss how craigslist can further assist the CPSC in addressing product recalls.”

Full Statement By CPSC Chairman Kaye:

I commend Brian Ross, his investigative unit at ABC News, and ABC affiliates across the country, which independently corroborated the fact that Craigslist allows the sales of dangerous, recalled products. The network's reporting also appears to have contributed to a potential new stance on safety by Craigslist.

I am aware that Craigslist has posted a letter regarding some new steps they finally plan to take to prevent the sale of recalled products—many of which can be deadly to children. I am hopeful that CPSC and Craigslist can work together to make the online marketplace far safer.

To the best of our knowledge, as confirmed by ABC News, Craigslist has programmed their system to stop only one recalled consumer product (the Nap Nanny infant recliner, which is responsible for numerous infant deaths) from being posted for sale on their website. By monitoring CPSC's weekly postings of recalls on our website, as many online retailers do, Craigslist staff can actively identify dangerous products that should be blocked on their site. If they can stop the recalled Nap Nanny from being resold, we believe that Craigslist can keep children and consumers safe by stopping transactions involving other hazardous products.

After the reports by Brian Ross and ABC affiliates started airing, it appears that Craigslist added a caution notice when a seller selects the “baby and kids stuff” category. The warning states, ‘no illegal sales of recall items, e.g. drop-side cribs, recalled strollers.’ This is a positive step forward. Yet, even with the caution notice and link to CPSC’s website, sellers can still post most recalled items. Thus, that step alone is clearly not sufficient.

To the extent that Craigslist is finally ready to step up in a genuine fashion to protect children from the sale of recalled products, my team is more than willing to work together with Mr. Buckmaster's team. I look forward to receiving his letter and communicating with him directly on a possible path forward that will protect consumers, especially children.

Elliot F. Kaye Chairman U.S. CPSC