Trouble in toyland: Illinois group warns to watch for counterfeit toys this holiday

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released this year’s annual Trouble in Toyland report ahead of the holidays.

It lists recalled toys from the past year, including toys that may be available for sale online. The group also says supply chain concerns should have shoppers paying special attention to what they are buying.

The Illinois PIRG 36th annual Trouble in Toyland report shows that many of those toys are counterfeit or recalled products, but still make their way into consumers’ shopping carts.

“The handful of greedy Grinches who are putting children at risk to put more money in their pockets have hearts two sizes too small,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG Education Fund Director in a press release.

The Illinois PIRG says the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled 13 toys and the PIRG Education Fund researchers found two additional recalled products that many would consider toys.

Abe Scarr with Illinois PIRG says more Illinois residents may opt not to shop in person this year. He says they need to make sure they know the risk of potentially buying a recalled toy.

Trouble in Toyland Report

The report also says the supply chain issues have affected manufacturing and distribution for the upcoming holiday season. They are stressing consumers can expect to have more difficulties shopping for the perfect toy this year, especially from the genuine, original manufacturer.

The group discussed concerns with knockoff toys, especially companies selling the popular pop toys. They say some are made out of less expensive materials and have not gone under the same safety testings. They also may not include age warnings.

The report also notes concerns with smart toys. They say some have privacy issues because they can easily be connected by Bluetooth without requiring any passwords. They shared the example of a Bluetooth singing machine that had no privacy protection to gain access to the device.

Here are the main categories in this year’s report:

  • Knockoff toys on the market: Knockoffs used to be found on a street vendor’s table. Nowadays, knockoffs and counterfeit toys can be bought online, often from overseas, where manufacturers don’t always follow U.S. regulations. Our researchers identified knockoff toys on the marketplace and the safety concerns they can pose to children. See our tips guide to learn how to avoid counterfeit toys.
  • Second-hand toys: People often sell their used goods online without checking to see whether they have been recalled. That can be a big problem when it comes to toys. We found previously recalled toys for sale on eBay. 
  • Choking hazards: Our researchers found discrepancies between website descriptions and warning labels for toys with small parts. Toys advertised for “age 2” had small parts that are unsafe for children under the age of 3. 
Trouble in Toyland Report
  • Noisy toys: Noisy toys are not only a nuisance in the home, but also at risk to children’s hearing. Toy researchers identified five noisy toys and tested the noise levels replicating how a child would use the toy. 
  • Smart toys: We identified privacy issues concerning smart toys looking at three categories: cameras and recording devices built into toys, unsecure mobile apps used to control toys and personalized online accounts that store data specifically about the toy and the toy user.

The Toy Association released a statement saying the PIRG’s report fails to mention that U.S. toy safety requirements are among the strictest in the world.

The Toy Association agrees that counterfeit toys lurking online have the potential to be unsafe and should be avoided at all costs. The Toy Association continues to urge parents to shop only from reputable brands and sellers, whether in stores or online, whose toys comply with over 100 different safety standards and tests required by law.

However, the Toy Association says the inclusion of many items that have been voluntarily recalled or discontinued by companies and are no longer available for purchase from legitimate sellers. The toy industry has a remarkable record of producing safe products – typically, only 0.003 percent of the three billion toys sold in the U.S. each year are recalled. Nonetheless, recalls remain a critical safety net that is part of a robust system designed to keep children safe.

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