Hundreds of consumer products are recalled each year in the United States. In many cases, these products potentially pose some sort of risk of injury or death due to a defect. Product recalls can affect a company financially, lead to future economic losses and tarnish a company’s image as well. Likewise, manufacturers issuing product recalls may be attempting to avoid violating product safety laws and to mitigate any legal action against the company.
Certain steps are usually taken by both the manufacturer and the consumer when a product is found to be potentially defective or unsafe. Knowing exactly what to do can help you determine if a product you own has been recalled and what to do if it has.
What is a Product Recall?
A product recall occurs when a company or government agency publicly requests that a potentially defective or unsafe product be returned. In most cases, product recalls are issued by the product’s manufacturer and are issued voluntarily. If a product defect presents a serious risk to those who use the product, a government agency could issue a mandatory recall.
Consumer products in the United States are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent federal agency formed to “protect the public against unreasonable risks or injury or death from consumer products.” Thousands of consumer products are regulated by the CPSC, including furniture, home appliances, nursery products, sports equipment and toys.
In addition to the development and enforcement of mandatory consumer product standards, the CPSC is responsible for obtaining product recalls and arranging for the product’s repair, replacement or refund.
How Do I Know If a Product I Own Has Been Recalled?
There are many ways to find out if a product you own has been recalled. The CPSC’s website contains information about the latest product recalls and updates the site when a recall is made by the manufacturer, company, or government agency. Consumers can also sign up to receive email alerts or follow the agency on social media.
Depending on the product, you may receive a notice from the manufacturer itself. Consumers may receive information directly from the manufacturer on products such as car seats, cribs, toys, and other children’s items. When you purchase a product, manufacturers may also ask you to register your product for product updates or other supplemental information, including product recall notices.
In addition to government and manufacturer recall notices, major product recalls, especially those that pose a significant risk to a large portion of the public, are often reported in the media on local and national news.
What Should I Do If a Product I Own Has Been Recalled?
If a product you own has been recalled, you should stop using the recalled product immediately and follow the recall announcement’s instructions. In many cases, the manufacturer will advise consumers to return the product to the company or retailer, while some companies will require you to send the product directly to the manufacturer. When the product is returned, regardless of the condition, the manufacturer may initiate a refund, secure a replacement, or repair the product without additional charge.
You may also submit a complaint to the CPSC if a product has harmed you or someone you know. If you report a safety concern with the CPSC, the agency will review it. The CPSC may or may not investigate the complaint; however, the agency will most likely use the complaint to locate patterns of injuries and hazards to guide future consumer product regulatory work. Should a product cause serious harm or injury, you might consider contacting an attorney specializing in consumer product recalls and products liability.