CHECK LABELS ON TOYS

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A call has gone out to parents and guardians of children who play with certain toys to carefully scrutinise and check the origin and manufacture of these items.

This advice from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs comes in the wake of the recent recall of a number of toys in the US that were said to contain unacceptably high levels of lead.

In addressing this matter, as it relates to the sale of these brands of toys here, Senior Legal Assistant in the department, Wayne Best, observed that there were clear procedures and provisions for voluntary recall of merchandise.

He pointed out that “products are recalled for various reasons; for example, if a good is unsafe or may cause harm or injury to a consumer, then that good is removed from the market.”

Mr. Best went on to outline the procedure for voluntary recalls: “Any product that is subject to recall, the person taking action to recall the product must within two days notify the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and this must be done in writing. The notice must state the nature of the defect and the danger associated with the defect. In addition, the public must be made aware of the recall and a notice published in both the print and electronic media, outlining the nature of the recall.”

He said where a business refused to voluntary recall a product that was found to be defective, under the Consumer Protection Act, “the Minister and Ministry have the authority and power to do so.”

He also explained that the Consumer Protection Act provides the legal framework required to ensure that procedures are followed, with respect to product recall. This is outlined in Section 47, Sub-Section 1 and 2 of the Act.

Failure to comply with the provisions listed in Section 62 of the Act is considered an offence, and persons and companies can be fined on summary conviction. The penalty in the case of a person is $10,000.00, or two years in prison or both; while for a company, the fine is $100,000.00.

Upon recall, products are then disposed of under the guidance of government’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Ministry, through the services of the Sanitation Service Authority. All of this is to ensure proper environmental disposal and that the product does not make its way back onto the market.

A fee is charged to the person or company who has made the recall and if the amount is a large quantity, the EPD requires that the product be shipped back to its manufacturer for disposal.

Senior Consumer Affairs Officer, Rommel Crawford, also sought to throw some light on the matter. He said, “Persons are compensated for recall products – usually a refund of monies already paid. However, if they are injured as a result of the defective product, a claim can be made to the manufacturer for their injuries. The refund will come from the retailer, who would then make a claim to the distributor or manufacturer.”

He gave examples of recent recalls in the US; Fisher Price & Mattel toys manufactured in China and KB Toys Learning Tools. Both products were recalled as a result of excessive amounts of lead in the paint. Some 231 pieces of the Fisher Price toy were imported into Barbados and of that amount 170 were removed from the market.

In the case of KB Toys, 24 pieces were imported but, to date, only five were returned. The Ministry is appealing to persons, especially operators of day care nurseries and pre-school businesses, to check their KB Toys for the 1st Learning Wooden Pull-Along-Wagon, 10-in-1 Activity Chart and Flip Flop Alphabet Blocks, and if they have these items they should return them to the retailer or bring them to the Ministry of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

So far, Barbados has never charged an individual or business with failure to comply with the Consumer Protection Act.

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