Manufacturers Fail to Use Social Media for Recall Safety, Report Says

PHOTO: The Facebook logo displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia, May 16, 2012.PlayMatt Rourke/AP Photo
WATCH Recall Roulette: The Flawed System Meant to Protect Your Family

Manufacturers of consumer products who use social media to promote their wares to tens of thousands of Americans are failing to use that same online power to protect customers from potentially dangerous recalled products, a consumer watchdog has found.

A majority of companies who have been involved in children’s product recalls have a Facebook page, but the consumer group Kids in Danger said in a new report that less than a quarter of those companies actually use the Facebook accounts to tell their followers when it may not be safe for the products to be in homes.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who has backed stronger children’s product safety laws in her state, said it is “absolutely critical” for parents to be educated about recalls.

“Manufacturers are not doing enough to inform consumers about recalls,” Madigan said Monday.

The finding about Facebook pages was part of a Kids in Danger report, announced Monday, that said that while fewer children are being killed or injured by recalled products, the percentage of faulty products that are properly returned under the current recall system is abysmally low.

As an in-depth ABC News investigation found in November, the government considers recovering 20 percent of recalled products a “good” recall. Sometimes, the return rate is as low as 5 percent – meaning a vast majority of potentially dangerous products may still be lurking in American homes or on store shelves.

The failure by manufacturers to alert consumers, including through social media, was a focus of criticism from Elliot Kaye, the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“I think some of them are certainly putting far more effort into sales than they are on the recall side. We definitely see that,” Kaye told ABC News for its original report. “What we see is there’s a quick hit on the recall side, it’s relatively narrow. They don’t use all their resources. They don’t use all their creativity. They don’t use all their social media channels to be able to do this, and that’s what we’re asking for.”

A spokeswoman for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association said in a statement that it promotes “best practices” such as in-store notifications, the use of social media and direct notification to consumers through product registration cards. The industry group represents 250 companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico that manufacture, import and distribute infant products.

“JPMA and its members are committed to utilizing this effective means of recall notification and regularly … educate and inform parents and caregivers of the importance of filling out product registration cards to receive direct notification of product recalls," the group said.

There is no specific requirement under federal law for how much effort manufacturers must make to get the word out about recalls.

In addition, some product resale websites, critics say, don’t do enough to make sure recalled products are stripped from their listings.

“It’s a continuing struggle,” says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, which released its own report Monday in Chicago. “The Internet is a slippery place to try to find people selling things.”

The KID report also found:

  • Since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, injuries and deaths to children related to current recalls have dropped. In 2014, the number of injuries reported prior to a recall dropped to 29, a dramatic drop from the 196 reported in 2013 and the 657 in 2007.
  • Of the products recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2014, 25 percent were children’s products. Clothing recalls made up the largest portion of those recalls.
  • Most recalled children’s products – almost 80 percent of them – remain in consumers’ hands.
Kids in Danger has a free mobile app for parents to use to check for recalls in stores, at consignment shops or at home (go to www.kidsindanger.org using your mobile device to install it). Recalls info can also be found at CPSC.gov and SaferProducts.gov.