As promised in my previous blog, I did some reading up on laws regarding product recalls. I’m not professing to be an expert on this—anyone can google this information—but I was curious about what manufacturers are required to do when they discover a problem with their products.
The answer is: it depends. Although there are general U.S. government regulations regarding recalls, a number of agencies actually oversee the processes. These are:
Food and Drug Administration FDA – Food, pharmaceutical drugs, health supplements…
Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC Consumer products (i.e. toys, appliances, etc.)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA Cars, trucks, vans, autoparts, recreational vehicles…
Environmental Protection Agency EPA Pesticides, fertilizers, and anything harmful to the environment
US Coast Guard Boats, jet skis, flotation devices, and other marine products
United States Department of Agriculture USDA Meat, Poultry Milk and other food products
All of these agencies set standards that must be met by the various products. Although a lot of recall reports are done voluntarily by manufacturers, these agencies test products to make sure they meet safety and other standards. If a problem is discovered via this testing, the manufacturer may face a number of consequences. On the low-end of the liability scale is the requirement to take products back and refund the purchase price to the customer. On the high end of the scale are charges of corporate negligence, fines and punitive damages.
Needless to say, the regulations look more favorably upon companies that voluntarily disclose problems with their products. Each of these agencies provides a number of online reporting options. If you think you need a reality check, Wikipedia lists some of the more notable recalls in U.S. history, including the Tylenol tampering case; Firestone tires and exploding cell phone batteries.