Product Recalls – What Are They?

Ideally, ever product that makes its way to market would be totally functional and fit for purpose. But since we don’t live in an ideal world, it’s inevitable that some of the products we buy and sell will be defective. A product recall provides a mechanism through which businesses can get the items they’ve identified as faulty off the shelves and out of harm’s way. Without such a mechanism, the customer would be at far greater risk. As an added complication, manufacturers would be far more cautious, and lack the safety net required to push forward with new innovations and techniques.

Despite their necessity, product recalls tend to keep manufacturers awake at night. They almost always come as a result of error on the part of the manufacturer, and almost always inflict considerable reputational damage – which can be compounded if the recall is mishandled.

How are recalls issued?

Recalls tend to be issued in one of two different ways. The first, and more agreeable, method comes after consultation between the manufacturer and an enforcement agency (which is usually Trading Standards). The two agree a course of action to deal with the defective product. The second course of action occurs when an agreement can’t be reached, in which case the enforcement body will unilaterally release a safety notice.

What other sorts of safety notice are there?

Naturally, taking a product off the market altogether is the most severe sort of possible safety action possible. Before this is necessary, there are several different sorts of safety notice which can be called upon. Let’s take a look at them.

Suspension notice

When a potential problem is first identified, a suspension notice will oblige retailers to stop selling the item in question until a more thorough investigation has taken place. This will allow time for the necessary safety evaluations and checks to be performed.

Warning requirement

This requires that manufacturers issue a warning to customers about the dangers of the product in question. That way they’ll be informed of the potential risks before committing to a purchase.

Withdrawal Notice

This is easily confused with a recall notice. It requires that a product be withdrawn from the market and no longer sold. It’s distinct from a recall notice, however, in that it doesn’t require that the item in question be take back from the people who’ve already bought it. This notice might be issued alongside a warning to past customers.

Recall Notice

This is the fullest safety notice, which requires that all problem items be taken off the shelves, and that customers be provided with an easy means of returning their item for a full refund.

How do recalls work?

The manufacturer of the product is obliged to communicate with their customers and guide them through the process. If there isn’t a reliable paper trail leading to each customer, however, this might be more tricky than it sounds.

Manufacturers are typically not well-versed in performing a product recall, particularly if they’re small and have little experience of the procedure. As a result, they often seek the services of specialist field marketing agencies like Tactical Solutions. Such organisations perform product recalls regularly on behalf of a range of different companies, and are therefore able to accumulate a great deal of expertise and experience, and justify investing time and resources into improving their methods. It’s best that manufacturers have arrangements in place with Tactical Solutions, or some similar company, before the need for a product recall arises; that way they’ll be able to act swiftly and smoothly when the need for a recall does arise.

What about claims?

If a product is botched or mishandled, then it isn’t just reputational damage that the company might suffer. There’s also a chance of legal action. This makes the necessity of a competent recall all the more pressing. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 stipulates that a product must be fit for purpose. A recalled product, by definition, will have failed to jump through this particular hoop, and so a refund might be obligatory. A customer whose goods are faulty might also hold their credit card company liable for any fault.

If the product is faulty enough to cause injury or even death, then the victim can sue the manufacturer, even if they themselves didn’t buy the product. This protection is provided by the Consumer Protection Act 1987, and can potentially place a severe financial strain on the manufacturer, particularly if a sufficiently large number of people sue at the same time.

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Jackie Delatorre

Jackie Delatorre