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Web Auction Sites Link To Safety

joie chen, washington nationals, chad cordero
CBS
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) said Friday it reached agreement with Internet auction sites eBay Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. to make it easier for customers to identify dangerous products sold online.

The commission said links to a special page warning of the dangers of recalled products would be placed immediately on portions of the eBay site and would appear soon in confirmation notices sent out from Amazon.com's auction site, which already links to CSPC.

The information would be available as a link from both the bidder and seller forms for certain products in addition to the "Tips for Buyers," "Tips for Sellers" and "Is my item allowed on eBay?" sections of the www.ebay.com site.

"Consumer education plays a critical role in eBay's dynamic marketplace," said Brian Swette, eBay's chief operating officer. "CPSC's new initiative will present our users with an important new tool to educate themselves about recalled products."

"Amazon.com Auctions is pleased to take part in this important initiative as it is consistent with several other unique programs we have implemented to protect customers," said Jeff Blackburn, the general manager of Amazon.com Auctions.

"A primary goal has always been to ensure a safe shopping and bidding experience for our valued customers".

Customers bid for and sell tools, toys, exercise equipment and other products at the www.amazon.com site.

The CSPC, an indepndent government agency, has banned or recalled "hundreds of hazardous products...over the years because a defect or hidden hazard made them dangerous and sometimes deadly to consumers," said CPSC Chairperson Ann Brown.

The advent of the Internet means items bought before CSPC had a chance to recall them may be sold again.

"CSPC can get these product off of store shelves, but it is more difficult to get them out of people's homes," said CPSC chairman Ann Brown.

David Butler, media director for the advocacy group Consumers Union, said the decision by eBay and Amazon was "a very positive move."

"One of the biggest challenges for consumers in judging products is getting up-to-date information about recalls and other factors," he said.

However, while regular retailers must enforce recalls and bans themselves by pulling targeted items from the shelves, Amazon and eBay are leaving it up to the consumer to do the checking.

"We definitely think businesses should play a greater role in carrying the responsibility for the products they sell," said Butler. "The responsibility for Internet sellers should be the same [as for] brick and mortar business."

Indeed, in Friday's press release, CPS said it "is seeking greater protection for consumers online, as it has sought protection for consumers in brick and mortar stores for years."

One of those efforts is Operation Safe Online Shopping (SOS), launched in December 1999 to monitor web sites for "recalled, illegal and potentially hazardous consumer products being sold in cyberspace."

Consumers wondering if a product has been banned or recalled can go to CPSC's web site at www.cpsc.gov, or call CPSC's Hotline at (800) 638-2772.

The announcement was a bit of good PR on a bad day for eBay and its shareholders.

The company's stock dropped 31 1/8 after it said it was subpoenaed in connection with a U.S. Justice Department investigation into possible price-fixing at fellow auctioneers Christie's International and Sotheby's.