DENVER — Between all the snow outside and the employees busy gift-wrapping goods inside, it’s beginning to look at lot like the holidays at Timbuk Toys.
The store has been located in Aspen Grove for about two years and is gearing up for the big holiday rush.
“We know our toys, we know what we have, and it's very important for us to match the right toy to the child,” said Paul Belden with Timbuk Toys.
More and more frequently, though, customers are doing a lot of their holiday shopping online. This year consumer protection groups are warning shoppers once again about the dangers some toys pose with the 37th annual Trouble in Toyland report.
Roughly 200,000 children go to the emergency room each year because of toy-related injuries and illnesses, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While that number is declining, the report found that recalled toys are still being sold online and are easy to come by.
“The principle should be that if you see it being sold, you should be able to assume it's safe. Unfortunately, just because it's sold online does not guarantee that it's safe,” said Danny Katz, the executive director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG).
Toys can be recalled for a variety of issues, everything from choking hazards to containing toxins to strangulation dangers.
The Public Interest Research Group was able to buy at least 11 recalled toys online including plastic army figures that contain high levels of lead, a Blue’s Clues ride-on toy that tips over easily, high-power magnetic beads that kids can swallow, and more.
CoPIRG is warning consumers this year that stolen toys, recalled ones and even counterfeit goods are being sold online and marketed as coming from reputable sellers. These toys often evade safety standards.
For years, the group has been working with state lawmakers to try to add some minimum safety standards like choke hazard labels and age recommendations on the toys.
This year, state legislators took things one step further by passing HB22-1099, otherwise known as the Colorado Informed Act. The bill requires third-party retailers that sell a lot of goods online to disclose certain information about their company like their name and address.
“It's information that all legitimate sellers would have, that legitimate businesses would have: tax ID number bank account, identifying information of their current headquarters, point of contact information, etc.,” said Rep. Terri Carver, R-El Paso, the bill’s prime sponsor.
Carver came up with the idea not from toys but from her local Home Depot store. The store contacted her a couple of years ago to talk about the increase of retail thefts it had experienced. The goods were then being sold online.
Traditionally, there have been consumer protection laws in place to prevent sales of counterfeit or stolen goods in stores with a physical location like pawn shops. However, for years the law has said little about online retail stores selling these goods.
“It's not the brick and mortar solely that we are concerned about stolen goods and counterfeit goods, it is the online marketplace and it's really just the law catching up to that reality,” Carver said.
If the online retailer does not provide this information, the companies facilitating the sale like Amazon would be required to not allow the sale to go forward. The state’s attorney general and local jurisdictions would also be able to pursue legal action against the seller for deceptive trade practices.
Carver said other states that have passed similar legislation have seen a decrease in stolen and counterfeit goods being sold online.
Congress has been considering similar legislation for years but has not been able to pass. In the meantime, Carver said Colorado is not going to wait for federal action. The new law goes into effect in January.
Back at Timbuk Toys, Belden is encouraging customers to come shop in their physical store, saying there’s a guarantee of safety but also a personal touch their employees bring.
“You go to one of the online sites and you buy it and you don't know exactly where it's coming from. You don't know if it's real. You come into a store like us, we'll let you hold it. You can take a look at it. We have demos of a lot of our toys, so you can actually play with it first,” Belden said.
To find out more about toy recalls, visit saferproducts.gov/recalls.