Blumenthal Demands Facebook & Craigslist Take Action to Prevent Illegal Sale of Recalled Products

[HARTFORD, CT] – Pointing to the continued availability of Fisher-Price Rock n’ Play Sleepers on the secondary market more than a week after the product was recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote to the CEOs of Facebook and Craigslist to demand the companies take action to prevent the illegal sale of recalled products on their platforms.  After an investigation by Consumer Reports found that Rock n’ Play Sleepers were linked to at least 32 infant deaths, Blumenthal wrote to CPSC demand an immediate recall, which CPSC heeded on April 12. Currently, Facebook does not expressly prohibit the sale of recalled products on its Facebook Marketplace, and recalled products remain readily available. Both platforms do not have ways for consumers to specifically flag the sale of recalled products.

“I write urging you to take common sense measures to protect potential customers from unwittingly purchasing this dangerous and deadly product,” wrote Blumenthal. “Even though it is ultimately the seller’s responsibility to ensure products sold are in compliance with the law, I believe you share a moral obligation to take simple steps to keep your users safe from hazardous products.”

Blumenthal also wrote to the CEOs of Amazon and eBay—whose platforms no longer appear to have Rock ‘n Plays for sale—to request information on how the companies remove recalled products from their platforms and urge them to “utilize the full breadth of technical expertise” at their disposal “to protect users—buyers and sellers alike” on their platforms.

The letters to Facebook, Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay are available here and the full text of the letter to Facebook is pasted below.

April 23, 2019

 Mr. Mark Zuckerberg

Chairman and CEO

Facebook

1 Hacker Way

Menlo Park, CA 94025

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

On April 12, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall[1] of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper—a popular baby product that has been linked to 32 deaths, according to an investigation by Consumer Reports.[2] Unfortunately, over a week after the recall, this deadly product is still readily available on your company’s online marketplace—Facebook Marketplace—where users can buy and sell new and used products. I write urging you to take commonsense measures to protect potential customers from unwittingly purchasing this dangerous and deadly product. Even though it is ultimately the seller’s responsibility to ensure products sold are in compliance with the law, I believe you share a moral obligation to take simple steps to keep your users safe from hazardous products.

The persistence of Rock ‘n Plays on secondary market sites like Facebook Marketplace has recently been reported by KMGH-TV.[3] According to the segment, Facebook uses technology and humans to monitor possible “policy violating” items on Marketplace. I am concerned the current combined efforts by technology and humans at Facebook are not being optimized, and you are not doing enough to ensure recalled products are taken off your platform promptly. As you may know, the sale of recalled items is illegal under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008,[4] and sellers who do so can be fined a penalty of up to $100,000 per product sold, up to a maximum of $15 million.[5] Accordingly, I urge you to consider taking the following actions to protect both buyers and sellers on your platform.

First, I ask that you add an option to allow users to specifically flag for Facebook the sale of recalled products—the same way users can currently flag weapon or drug sales. Under the current user interface, there is no way to report the sale of a recalled product and users that choose to “Report a Post” are required to select one reason and cannot write-in an explanation for why they are reporting (see attached pictures). Based on the current selection options, it is unclear what a user wishing to report that a product has been recalled should select. I believe that Facebook can more promptly take down Facebook Marketplace posts that illegally sell recalled products if it allows users to provide more specific information regarding why they are reporting a particular post. Accordingly, I urge you to consider allowing users to specifically report the sale of recalled products.

Second, I ask you to update your seller policies to clearly indicate that the sale of recalled products is illegal. Under your “Commerce Policies,” there are many kinds of products that are prohibited, but it does not specify recalled products as prohibited content.[6] In contrast, Craigslist clearly specifies the sale of recalled products as prohibited[7] and provides users with links, including cpsc.gov and recalls.gov, for users to learn more about recalls.[8] Similarly, eBay specifically prohibits the sale of recalled products under its “Product safety policy.”[9] I believe reminding users of their legal obligations to not sell recalled products should be an easy and common sense addition to your current policy.

Third, I trust that many parents and caregivers selling their old Rock ‘n Plays on Facebook Marketplace are not intentionally trying to offload their deadly products, and do not want to be subject to thousands of dollars in fines. Accordingly, I encourage you to use tools such as reverse image search, as well as keyword matching, to proactively take down the illegal sale of recalled consumer products, including the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Plays. The implementation of such technologies could be highly effective because most sellers of recalled children’s products are not intentionally violating the law, and are less likely to be interested in employing various tricks to evade detection. I urge you to act in the best interest of your users and to work more collaboratively with the CPSC so that you can match items for sale on your platform against CPSC’s public database[10] of recalled products.

Finally, to help us understand how you remove the illegal sale of recalled consumer products on your platform, I also respectfully request responses to the following questions, which I have also asked other secondary market sites to answer:

  1. Is there a mechanism for Facebook users to specifically flag the sale of a recalled product? Please describe.
  2. What is your policy on the sale of recalled products?
  3. What consequences does Facebook impose on sellers of recalled products?
  4. What notification do you provide to buyers that have purchased recalled products?
  5. Please describe what technologies (i.e. reverse image search, keyword matching, machine learning, etc.) that you use to remove the illegal sale of recalled consumer products, such as the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper.
  6. Please describe how you partner with CPSC and utilize CPSC’s public database[11] of recalled products to protect consumers from hazardous products.

I expect you to utilize the full breadth of technical expertise at your company to protect users—buyers and sellers alike—on your platform. I believe Facebook can be a much stronger partner in CPSC’s mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death and help get dangerous and deadly products out of people’s homes. I respectfully request a response detailing how you will implement these recommendations, as well as responses to the questions above, by May 8, 2019.



[1] “Fisher-Price Recalls Rock 'n Play Sleepers Due to Reports of Deaths,” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, April 12, 2019, https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2019/fisher-price-recalls-rock-n-play-sleepers-due-to-reports-of-deaths.

[2] Peachman, Rachel Rabkin, “Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper Should Be Recalled, Consumer Reports Says,” Consumer Reports, last updated April 12, 2019, https://www.consumerreports.org/recalls/fisher-price-rock-n-play-sleeper-should-be-recalled-consumer-reports-says/.

[3] Brady, Nicole, “Consumer Alert: Recalled Baby Sleeper Still Selling Online,” KMGH-TV, April 16, 2019, https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/contact7/consumer-alert-recalled-rock-n-play-sleeper-still-selling-online.

[4] 15 U.S.C. §2068(a)(2)(B)

[5] 15 U.S.C. §2069

[6] “Commerce Policy,” Facebook, accessed April 23, 2019, https://www.facebook.com/policies/commerce.

[7] “Prohibited,” Craigslist, accessed April 23, 2019, https://www.craigslist.org/about/prohibited.

[8] “Unlawful Sales of Recalled Items Are Prohibited,” Craigslist, accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.craigslist.org/about/recalled_items.

[9] “Product Safety Policy,” eBay, accessed April 23, 2019, https://www.ebay.com/help/policies/prohibited-restricted-items/product-safety-policy?id=4300.

[10] Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Public Database Export,” SaferProducts.gov, https://www.saferproducts.gov/SPDB.zip

[11] Consumer Product Safety Commission. SaferProduts.gov. “Public Database Export.” https://www.saferproducts.gov/SPDB.zip