Here's a task that new parents should tackle after the baby shower but before the thank-you notes: Fill out product registration cards.
Once an opportunity for companies to glean marketing information from consumers, product registration cards now are a means for manufacturers to promptly and directly notify families and caregivers about recalls. Under new federal law, the registration cards must be included with many infant and toddler nursery items manufactured after June 2010.
"Product registration cards will not be effective if they remain in the box," said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for the public watchdog group Consumer Federation of America. "This only asks for the minimum information necessary to contact you."
The new requirement is part of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement law, which also requires the creation of standards for many durable infant and toddler products. Updated standards for cribs have just been proposed and are expected to be adopted by the end of the year, for example.
Every week, at least two juvenile or infant products are recalled, and 80 children are killed each year by juvenile products, said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving children's product safety.
"These are deaths involving the very products that are intended to keep their children safe," she said.
Recall announcements are posted on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website and those of some manufacturers and retailers, and also e-mailed to consumers who sign up for the CPSC's mailing list. But notifying consumers directly about a recall of a product they purchased or received will help improve their effectiveness, said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the commission.
"Take the time to fill it out," she said last week when federal officials announced the initiative. "It is so important for you and your child's safety. It will be successful as long as the consumer participates."
Manufacturers will not be allowed to sell this data collected on registration cards, and they cannot use it for marketing purposes, Weintraub said.
A spokeswoman for the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association stated that the industry supports the new rules for registration cards and encourages families to fill them out for every baby gear purchase.
Consumer advocates and regulators hope that this little bit of paperwork can help avert tragedy. The law was named for Danny Keysar, who died in 1998 at 16 months of age while sleeping in a portable crib that collapsed.
Danny's mother, Linda Ginzel, and her husband founded Kids In Danger. She said that her son's death could have been prevented. The crib had been recalled in 1993, according to the Kids In Danger website.
"If there had been a product registration card with this portable crib, and if the manufacturer had used it to contact the owner, my son would be alive today," Ginzel said.
Families will be able to register products postage-free through the mail or at a manufacturer's website. They also can update the registration information with manufacturers if they move or receive a product that was previously purchased and used by someone else.
The Consumer Federation of America and Kids In Danger developed a guide for parents and caregivers registering products, which can be found at http://www.kidsindanger.org/publications/brochures/2010_PR_Brochure.pdf.
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