Investigative Unit 2014: Recall Roulette

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

[As 2014 comes to a close, the ABC News Brian Ross Investigative Unit looks back on some major reports over the last year.]

In his first major interview, the newly-minted head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission told ABC News in November that the recall of a potentially dangerous product only takes about 20 percent of them off the market. And that’s a “good” recall, according to Chairman Elliot Kaye. Some recalls only see five percent returned or fixed.

In an ABC News joint investigation with ABC affiliates around the country which aired last month on "20/20", Kaye also came out swinging on Craigslist, singling out the classified online site as not doing enough to keep potentially hazardous, recalled products out of people’s homes, calling the company “morally irresponsible.”

ABC News collaborated with 17 local affiliates from coast to coast, who did their own digging and found recalled products being sold on Craigslist. In most cases, the sellers had no idea the products they were selling had been under recall, telling the local ABC News reporters that had they been alerted of the recall upon posting the item, they never would have attempted to sell it in the first place.

Among the potentially dangerous items discovered on the Craigslist site was a Bumbo baby seat linked to a series of accidents in which infants fractured their skulls or suffered other serious injuries. The Bumbo was later recalled, and owners were offered a safety belt, but the original version continued to be offered for re-sale on Craigslist.

When ABC News attempted to list the recalled version of the Bumbo on Amazon, it was immediately blocked. On eBay, the listing was removed by the site after a day. But the Craigslist ad ABC News posted for the recalled item remained on the site for a week until we took it down on our own.

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.

ABC News’ Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross attempted to ask Craigslist founder Craig Newmark about the findings and he refused to answer questions, saying he was only a “customer service representative.” A company representative told ABC News that Craigslist prohibits the sale of recalled items and the company says it notifies users that recalled products can’t be sold and sellers can access a link to a list of recalled items.

After the ABC reports aired across the country, the CEO of Craigslist wrote an open letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, firing back for singling out the classified site and insisting that his company was taking appropriate steps to thwart the sales of recalled products. CEO Jim Buckmaster also invited CPSC Chairman Kaye to meet with company representatives.

In response, Kaye issued a challenge to Craigslist to make its site safer. Citing that the reporting done by the ABC News affiliates “appears to have contributed to a potential new stance on safety by Craigslist,” Kaye welcomed any future meetings with Craigslist representatives.