Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Happens After a Recall?

As the news spreads about the voluntary recall of Total Body Formula, what is particularly striking to me is how the news of the recall makes it to consumers. From the many folks I talk with every month on a variety of matters, it seems that most consumers don't know of recalls, and as of yet there is no uniform method as to recalls.

From today's Wall Street Journal:

"The recall itself is touted as a powerful tool of regulators for keeping consumers safe, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission points to the growing number of recalls as an indication that the system is working to protect consumers. But sometimes, not enough is done beyond the announcement to ensure that consumers and all retailers know about the recall.

The CPSC is charged with ensuring that roughly 15,000 products in the U.S. marketplace today are safe to use. Yet, when a product is cited as a hazard, it is mainly up to the consumer to learn about the recall and take action. Unlike Ms. Bykowski, few consumers do.

On average, just 15% to 30% of consumers who have purchased a defective product respond when the item is recalled, says the CPSC. Responses can rise to about 60% for higher-profile recalls that include some children's products or home appliances. But often more than two-thirds of recalled products go unaccounted for, leaving children and adults vulnerable to injuries ranging from lead poisoning caused by mouthing certain toys to burns from overheated fax machines.

That is because the notification, which relies in part on press releases that may or may not be picked up by the media, is often lax or low-tech. And many consumers simply don't want to deal with the paperwork or the hassle of mailing something back, especially large items, like a crib, which has to be disassembled. Of course many consumers may never learn of the recall."

The article goes on to note: "The recall system just doesn't work," said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a Chicago child-safety advocacy group. "The very concept is backwards." She cited the need to improve the safety of products before they reach store shelves."

Link here.