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Consumer Law Newsletter

Taking Unsafe Toys Away From Children

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates the distribution of 15,000 types of consumer products that pose an unreasonable risk of injury or death to the public. As young children are particularly susceptible to injury, the CPSC imposes strict guidelines for toy distribution, and responds quickly when certain toys either injure or kill a young child.

Small Balls Marketed to Young Children

The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) bans the marketing of small balls to young children (under three years old). Even when a particular “small ball” toy or toy container has not yet caused injury, various toy manufacturers and distributors have voluntarily recalled products where the packaging appealed primarily to young children and promised safe use by young children.

Toy Packaging

As marketing hazardous toys to young children violates federal law, and packaging is an effective way to market a product, packaging can come under the strict scrutiny of the CPSC.

In 1999, a major fast food chain recalled more than 25 million ball-shaped plastic containers, which held toys and came with kids’ meals, after a ball became stuck on a one-year-old child’s face and suffocated her. The balls were distributed in eye-catching colors, which made the toys immediately attractive to young children. Further, the packaging described the balls as safety-tested and recommended for children of all ages.

Similarly, a California toy company recalled 40,000 packages of bouncing balls because of a severe choking possibility associated with the balls, even though no deaths or injuries had yet been reported in connection with the balls. The eight multicolored balls were packaged in clear plastic with backing that was multicolored. A sticker on the package of the balls even suggested that the balls were “GREAT for FAVORS and TRICK or TREATS!”

2011 Toy Recalls

Millions of toys were recalled in 2011, mostly due to the presence of lead in toys manufactured in China. Other toys were recalled because they posed a choking hazard. Toys were also recalled due to drug-like effects resulting when the toys were ingested.

Consumer Response to Recalled Toys

Many retailers refund the purchase price for products that have been recalled or are otherwise defective. The Federal Trade Commission advises that if a retailer offers a “money-back guarantee,” consumers should be able to obtain a full refund with no questions asked.

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