The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Companies fail to use social media to warn of dangerous recalls, report finds

The Rock ’n Play inclined sleeper was recalled by manufacturer Fisher-Price in April. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

When the Boy Scouts of America recalled its neckerchief slides last year because of high lead content, it announced the recall on its main Facebook and Instagram pages, but not to its 80,000 Twitter followers.

And when Fisher-Price earlier this year recalled 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play inclined sleepers after a string of infant deaths, the company alerted its 6.7 million followers on Twitter and Facebook, but not its nearly 540,000 followers on Instagram.

Many child-product companies are not doing enough online to warn consumers about potentially dangerous products recalled in coordination with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, according to a new survey by the advocacy group Kids in Danger.

The group found that only 65 percent of the 117 companies that had a child product recalled in the past two years posted the recall details on their corporate websites. Just over half of the companies posted a recall on their Facebook pages. Less than half tweeted about a recall.

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But the worst performance came on Instagram, where less than 20 percent of companies warned consumers about a recall.

“This is just such a simple thing and companies don’t do it,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger.

Illustrating the problem’s complexity, Boy Scouts of America did publish recall notices about its neckerchief slides on the websites and social media accounts of two scout-related entities: the Scout Shop and Scouting Magazine. It didn’t use the main Boy Scouts of America’s Twitter account. But the organization said in a statement to The Washington Post that it tried to use the best ways to reach its intended audience.

Companies are not required to promote or tell the public about a product recall. They need to provide only a remedy and a way for consumers to contact them. The CPSC lists recalls on its website. But that limits a recall’s effectiveness, Cowles said.

Kids in Danger said it wants the CPSC to require companies to publish recall notices on their websites and social media platforms, “rather than requiring customers to search for recalls on their own volition.”

That could boost awareness of recalls like the one last year for Jané's Muum strollers, which violated federal safety standards. The company didn’t mention the recall to its nearly 100,000 followers on social media, according to Kids in Danger.