Second recall of air pump exposes flaws in the tracking of faulty products

Consumer Reports News: November 06, 2007 11:08 AM

We have often expressed concern about the effectiveness of product recalls. We know from sad, past experience that all too often recalled products remain in homes, in garages, and on store shelves. If consumers are not clicking on, reading, watching or listening to the right news at the right time, they may never get the word of a recall that could affect them directly.

We need no further proof of this problem than the Consumer Product Safety Commission's "re-announcement" recently of a previous recall initially made in January.  The recall involves 11,000 Inflator Air Pumps made by Sportsstuff (the same company that brought you the dangerous Wego Kite Tube that was withdrawn from the market in 2006 after reports of two deaths and dozens of injuries).

The air pumps—sold separately for $50 or as part of Sportstuff's inflatable water trampoline called Launch Pod for $375—were recalled on January 11 after reports that they could overheat and explode during use.

Unfortunately, since the first recall announcement, 16 additional explosions have been reported with 10 consumers suffering lacerations, including two who required stitches.

This is not the first time that the CPSC has had to re-announce a recall. Two other major recalls this year were also re-announcements of earlier recalls: the Simplicity crib and the Easy Bake oven. Clearly this suggests a problem in the way recalls are announced and publicized.  We've long been in favor of a product registration system that would allow manufacturers to directly contact owners of recalled products as opposed to relying on the media to publicize the recall.  We also think that the CPSC should track and report the consumer response rate for each recall they issue.  A poor response rate should prompt a stronger effort to alert consumers about hazardous products.

As for the air pump, CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese says, "It's quite unfortunate that there were additional incidents when the agency sought to remove the product from the marketplace. We know that there are people who have the products who need to take the message seriously and stop using the pumps." Sportstuff is offering free replacements.

For more information consumers should contact Sportsstuff at (888) 814-8833 or visit www.sportsstuff.com and search on "recall."


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