Recalls of Unsafe Kids' Products Often Ignored

— -- Children's product recalls dropped 24% in 2011, but injuries and other incidents associated with these recalls grew 7%, a report out today says.

The decline in recalls is likely due to companies' adherence to a new children's product safety law, according to Kids In Danger, which did the report. But the advocacy group says that the secrecy surrounding product safety recalls makes it difficult to draw conclusions.

What is clear: The percentage of products fixed or replaced remains largely unchanged the past few years, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC). Only 15% to 30% of products are sent back or repaired, but some high-profile recalls get higher response rates, the CSPC says.

About 40% of recalls last year, or 121 of 310 overall, involved children's products, the Kids In Danger report shows. And it notes two recalls of bunk beds and infant video monitors involved deaths. CPSC's complaint database includes many reports of children injured or killed by recalled products, says Kids In Danger's Nancy Cowles.

CPSC has required makers of 22 children's products to include registration cards since June 2010. But there are no data yet on whether that's improved responses. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association says the rate of return has "traditionally been very low."

The average recall response rate for child safety seats — which are regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration— is about 41%, while about 75% of owners of cars and light trucks take their cars back for recalls, says data and analysis firm Lindsey Research Services. Car recalls are bolstered by mandatory registration.

Stores track shoppers' purchases closely, but their ability to link a person with a purchase depends on the payment method, whether the consumer has a store loyalty card, and privacy issues, says Kevin Sterneckert, retail research chief at technology advisory firm Gartner Group. He says online retailers would have the easiest time contacting consumers.

Members of loyalty programs at Toys R Us and Babies R Us get e-mail alerts about product recalls; others can sign up on the stores' websites to get notices. Amazon and Costco notify customers when products they buy online are recalled.

Consumers can sign up for recall notices on CPSC's and NHTSA's websites.

The report urged CPSC to require "more aggressive" recall outreach and asked Congress to require annual CPSC reports on recall effectiveness.