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Recalls: The No-Man’s Land of Selling

How to avoid liability when selling new or used items online.

Your day is going well. You got up and exercised for 45 minutes, ate a healthy breakfast; you’re pumped up and feeling good. You sit down to your computer and open up a browser to your eBay Store and your e-mail program. Sales are going steady. You are making money, just like you work hard to do every day. Then you hear a knock on the front door.

When you open the door, you are met by a county sheriff’s deputy with an official piece of paper. He asks who you are, and you reply. As he hands you the document, he drops these heavy and scary words: “You are officially served.”

The document, you soon discover, is a summons to a civil trial, naming you as one of the people being tried. Your crime? You sold a recalled toy in your eBay Store that has been proved to have defective parts that come off and pose a risk. The child of the buyer was severely hurt because they choked on the piece in question. You are horrified. And you are also in trouble. You certainly did not want anyone’s child to be hurt, and you are at serious risk financially as well.

Awful story, isn’t it? Well, it can happen just that way. If you sell in certain categories, you need to know what you are selling. If you sell a lot of children’s items then you need to be especially careful. You honestly do not want to be a part of hurting someone’s child. Not ever.

Do your due diligence before you list something you picked up at the local flea market or yard sale

What’s a seller to do?

So what do you do? Do you just stop selling toys online and hunker down behind your door in a defensive pose? No. Obviously that is an overreaction. You can still sell your items. You just have to do a little due diligence before you list something you picked up at the local flea market or yard sale.

Here are some guidelines from eBay’s Recalled Items Policy page, and some additional advice to help you be a safe seller.

  • Before you list an item, take a few minutes to check the manufacturer’s site, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) recall news site and the U.S. recall information site to get the most up-to-date information on recalled items. You can also sign up to receive e-mail notices about item recalls.
  • Check the CPSC list of recalled toys at
  • Check the Toy Industry Association site to see extensive information on toy safety. You can look through photos of recalled toys
  • What is the most important take away from this list of advice if you sell items meant to be used by children? Check, check and check again. Make sure your items aren’t on any of these lists to avoid a scene like the one described above.

    More resources

    Here is a list of toy recall hotlines that may be of help in preventing you from selling an unsafe toy:

    • Consumer Products Safety Commission: (800) 638-2772
    • Fisher-Price: (800) 991-2444
    • Mattel: (800) 916-4498
    • Toy Industry Association: (888) 888-4TOYS
    • Toys “R” Us: (800) 869-7787

    It’s important to note that toys are not the only items that come under recalls. Automobiles have items recalled very frequently as well. Many types of items do. You should try to be aware of your items and the potential for a recall.

    You don’t need to spend hours every day checking on these types of items. Just a quick check on the Web sites mentioned above is good for these types of items as well.

    About the author

    Danna Crawford
    Danna Crawford, CEO of PowerSellingMom, Inc., has been a successful eBay seller since 1997. In 2008, she received eBay's Community Hall of Fame Award, as well as the Golden Ribbon Community Seller Award from eBay Giving Works. As an eBay certified education specialist, Crawford teaches at the community college and university levels, and frequently speaks on topics such as how to make money blogging, writing e-books and more. Crawford can be heard every Friday night on her Internet radio show, PowerSellingMomRadio, and in weekly webinars at Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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