July 2013 WAJ President's Column

Buyer Beware: Is That Used Product You're Buying Safe? 

By Jeff Pitman, 2013 WAJ President

Did you ever consider that the used product you purchased at a garage sale, second hand store or online was defective?  Probably not.  Dangerous and unsafe products that are defective and have been recalled may remain “in the stream of commerce.”  The owner may not have knowledge that the product is defective and dangerous.   So, the original owner wouldn’t know to warn a buyer of any defect.

For example, in the summer of 2006 a young woman climbed to the top of an inflatable pool slide she had purchased online from Toys R Us. She slid down head first, but was unaware the slide had partially deflated and she landed on the concrete near the edge of the pool, causing fatal head and neck injuries.   

Five years after the accident a jury compensated the young woman’s family for their loss finding that the slide — designed for in-ground pools and imported by Wal-mart and Toys R Us from a Chinese manufacturer — did not comply with the federal safety standards for swimming pool slides.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) report, a recall was issued with Wal-mart and Toys R Us but only after another unfortunate accident occurred with injuries suffered by a 24-year old man who fractured his neck and became a quadriplegic.

Unfortunately the above stories are not isolated instances, and several recalled products end up for sale at garage sales, secondhand shops, or in online classifieds and sold to people who are unaware of the dangers.  According to the data collected in 2012 from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CPSC, consumer products, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and food accounted for 13,366,191 reported injuries and 5,490 reported deaths resulting in 2,363 product recalls.

Some recalled items like kid’s indoor and outdoor toys, baby furniture and clothing, are still often times resold through classified sites and garage sales, by people who are unaware the items may have been recalled.  

The current consumer protection laws make it illegal to sell recalled products — and that applies to products sold at yard sales, as well as flea markets and Internet sites like Craigslist. However, it is still up to the consumer to make sure the products they are purchasing have not been recalled.

It’s best to remember that product recalls do not expire, so it’s important for consumers to check recall websites and consumer product safety reports regularly. If you purchase products at secondhand shops, garage sales or online auction sites, check to make sure the product has not been recalled, it could save your life or the life of a loved one.

To learn more about product recalls and other consumer protection laws, visit the CPSC’s website at: http://www.cpsc.gov/ or the FDA’s website at: http://www.fda.gov/

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