The Rock ‘n Play Sleeper by Fisher-Price started out as a lifesaver for many new parents, offering them the elusive gift of sleep. First introduced in 2009, it evolved into a sophisticated mechanical rocker with music and shushing features, allowing parents to move around the house while their babies slept. However, in 2019, about 4.7 million Rock ‘n Plays were recalled after being linked to the deaths of 30 infants. It has since been linked to around 100 infant deaths, so why is it still being sold on Facebook?
The recall was reannounced in January, yet hundreds of these sleepers continue to be listed on Facebook Marketplace every month. In a recent letter, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) demanded that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, take action to prevent these illegal listings from surfacing. The CPSC found almost 4,000 of the recalled sleepers on resale sites over 13 months starting in February 2022, and 93% were on Facebook Marketplace.
“If CPSC staff can identify these illegal listings using your site, Meta indisputably can prevent them from appearing in the first place,” CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric wrote in his letter to Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
Hoehn-Saric also urged the CEO of Mattel, which owns Fisher-Price, to consider new incentives for consumers to act upon the recall. The recall currently provides a refund for those who purchased the product on or after October 12, 2018, and a voucher for those who purchased it before then. However, many Rock ‘n Play owners are left with little incentive to return their product, especially those who don’t need another Fisher-Price product. As a result, consumers are selling the product on the secondary market, often making more than they would by participating in the recall.
“The persistent secondary marketplace for Rock ‘n Play sleepers indicates that consumers either remain unaware that the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play has been recalled or believe selling the recalled product on the secondary market is a better choice than acting on the recall remedy Fisher Price currently provides,” Hoehn-Saric wrote.
While the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 makes it illegal to sell a recalled item, there is a loophole for online marketplaces like Facebook. For example, Facebook is considered to be facilitating the sales between buyers and sellers, meaning there is nothing the company is legally required to do about recalled products on their site.
Facebook Marketplace’s policy restricts the sale of recalled goods, but listings for recalled products regularly appear on the site. In 2021, a spokeswoman for Meta told USA TODAY that the company checks for violations of this policy mainly through automated reviews before the listing goes public.
As noted by Romper, sellers can simply leave the product name out of their posting to “outsmart the algorithm,” allowing the posting to go through. Part of Hoehn-Saric’s request to Meta includes providing users with a way to flag listings for recalled and hazardous products.
CPSC spokeswoman Pamela Springs said that over the course of 13 months, the agency made 60,000 requests to various online marketplaces to take down the listings of recalled products, and more than three-quarters of those were to Facebook.
What to do if you have a Rock ‘n Play Sleeper:
If you have a Rock ‘n Play and were unaware of the recall, this is why the product is so dangerous:
- Infants can roll from their backs to their stomachs while unrestrained, leaving them at risk of suffocation.
- The product places infants at a reclined 30-degree angle. A CPSC-commissioned study found an incline of greater than 10 degrees is unsafe for sleep because it increases the risk of suffocation. The CPSC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies sleep on flat surfaces.
According to the CPSC, the sleepers were sold by major retailers from September 2009 through April 2019 for $40 to $149. If you have a Rock ‘n Play, contact Fisher-Price customer service to receive a prepaid mailer to return the product. Include the receipt to receive a refund if you purchased it new.
If you’re looking for another way to dispose of it, make sure you disassemble and destroy the product so it’s no longer usable, and place the parts in black trash bags. You don’t want anyone to pick it off the curb and take it home.
When buying baby products secondhand, always search the product on saferproducts.gov, which is a CPSC database that contains recall information and incident reports. Going the extra mile by researching the product online can save you from purchasing a dangerous and potentially fatal item.