TIP: How to Handle a Product Recall

From contaminated vegetables to mislabeled medication, product recalls are all too common in today’s retail environment. But many people don’t know what to do if something they’ve purchased has been recalled.

What is a recall? According to Investopedia, “A product recall is the process of retrieving defective and/or potentially unsafe goods from consumers while providing those consumers with compensation.” It is an action taken by a manufacturer or the government to protect the public from products that may cause health or safety problems. Some recalls ban the sale of an item, while others ask consumers to return the item for replacement or repair. Sometimes, a seller will provide a part that reduces the danger of using the product.

Government Recalls. If a government agency finds a defect with a product, they will contact the manufacturer and ask them to recall the product. The companies do not have to comply unless the product is infant formula. If the manufacturers do not follow the government agency’s request, then they will often be taken to court, where they may be forced to order a recall. Recalls.gov. is a website that compiles all information from government agencies whose purpose is to monitor recalls from every consumer industry. There are several government agencies that oversee recalls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees the recall of products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), oversee the recall of food. Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) oversees car recalls.

Manufacturer Recalls Other times, the companies themselves will discover an issue with their product and decide to issue a recall. The manufacturer will reach out to the government in order to issue the recall. One of the best resources it the manufacturer’s website. If a recall is issued, this is the most direct source of information on the problem and what to do next. Granted, some companies are not as good at updating websites, but most handle this kind of announcement through a media page or news section of their website.

Get the facts. Recalls are issued through many different channels. Both the government and the manufacturer will reach out to the consumers to inform them of a recall. You might learn of a recall because of a postcard or letter that comes in your postal mail. Other recalls are issued through the news media and still more are sent out over social media. Often times, all of these channels will be used at once to inform the public of a problem so as to reach as many people at once as possible.

Follow recall instructions exactly. Generally, you are provided a list of criteria for dealing with the recall. For example, a car maker might have you bring your vehicle to a local dealership for repairs, or contaminated food should be returned to the grocer where it was purchased. Whatever the steps, take them exactly as prescribed. Don’t delay and follow their instructions to the letter. You want to make sure you and your family are safe and the recall is taken care of as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Focus on safety. When some people hear the word “recall” some people may they’re going to get something for free because of a company’s screw up, but that’s not exactly how it works. The goal of issuing a recall is protecting the consumer, and staying safe should be the most important thing consumers considers as well. Compensation for various recalls will depend on the product and the specific circumstances surrounding its problem. You’ll usually be offered a refund, a replacement, or, when applicable, a repair kit.

Protect yourself going forward. Before you buy a product, especially a used or secondhand one, be sure to check that the manufacturer has not recalled it. Be particularly wary of resale websites. While it is illegal to sell a recalled product, consumers sometimes unknowingly do. Be cautious when buying items directly from overseas, where companies may not be aware of our regulations and may manufacture products that do not comply. If you are buying a product for a child, such as toys, clothing, cribs, and costume jewelry, be especially careful. You should fill out any registration cards that come with products so companies know who to contact in case of issues.

Reposted content from GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd., USA.gov, CNBC.com, and AccidentsHappenAtty.com.