Manufacturers of consumer products selling into the U.S. market are aware of the potentially dangerous and costly consequences when their products contain a major design flaw or manufacturing defect. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Web site indicates that there is indeed reason for caution on the part of all manufacturers: deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the U.S. more than $700 billion each year.
The CPSC's "November 2007 Recalls and Product Safety News" report indicates a wide range of recent recalls that were enacted in order to protect consumers from potential dangers ranging from lead-based paint in toys to collapsing furniture.
Here is an FAQ for those manufacturers who are currently considering a product recall or who operate in industries that face a high degree of risk of product recall-related incidents.
FAQ #1: Which types of consumer products are experiencing highest incidence of recalls?
A: According to an analysis of the "November 2007 Recalls and Product Safety News" report available on the CPSC Web site, 36% of recalls in that month involved baby goods or toys. Following close behind were products in the following categories: jewelry/costume jewelry (13%), electronics/electrical products (13%), furniture (9%), and machines/vehicles (6%). Other product categories represented among the multiple recall campaigns mediated by the CPSC in November include clothing, decorations, outdoor/sporting goods, school supplies, paper goods, storage racks and tools.
FAQ #2: What are the most prevalent potential dangers related to recent recalls?
A: The recalls in the aforementioned November report were implemented in order to avoid a number of potential public and consumer health hazards as indicated by the CPSC. By far the most prevalent potential hazard among recent recalls was that of the presence of lead in the recalled products (47%). Other potential hazards include the risk of fire (19%), collapse/bodily injury (11%), choking (6%), lacerations/cuts (6%), strangulation/suffocation (6%), and electric shock (4%).
FAQ #3: What events typically lead up to a product recall?
A: A product recall can come about in two primary ways. The first is the result of multiple consumer-originated complaints to the CPSC or other government organizations about the same product. (Such complaints can be directed by consumers directly to the CPSC Web site). The second is when proactive or cautious manufacturers or distributors of a given product suspect a defect or flaw and decide to error on the side of caution by instituting their own recall campaign. Either way, the CPSC ultimately gets involved with all consumer product recalls - provided that the product in question is one of the 15,000 product types that falls under the CPSC's domain.
FAQ #4: How should my company determine whether we should issue a recall?
A: The determination as to whether your firm should issue a product recall should depend upon a number of factors, both internal and external to your company. Often, multiple dimensions are to be taken into account when considering whether to issue a campaign. Legal, financial, ethical, technical and political factors are all involved. If you are facing a potential product recall situation and would like to find out more, visit the Business section of the CPSC Web site for information about regulations and industry guidance.
FAQ #5: What are the options available to me to get the message out to consumers and distributors in the event of a recall?
A: The very nature of most product recall situations is one of urgency. Companies have a number of options available to them in getting the word out to affected parties, including direct mail, press releases, e-mail and telephone-based campaigns. The fastest-to-implement media for conducting recalls messaging campaigns are telephone and e-mail-based campaigns. However, telephone-based campaigns are likely the most realistic to implement, given that the typical company's customer database often lacks e-mail addresses for many consumers, while telephone number data is readily available for most or all consumers.
Facing a product recall situation is something that every manufacturer or distributor would like to avoid. However, given that most consumer product categories are potentially at risk for a recall - and given the public health dangers at stake - the decision to implement a campaign is often the least-costly and most ethical choice. If your company is facing a recall situation, it is important to make quick, accurate judgments about whom to contact and how to determine the content of the recall message that consumers will hear. From that point forward, choose a medium for your messaging campaign based upon the following factors: time-to-launch, chances of reaching the highest percentage of affected consumers, operational flexibility, and cost.
Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web Site
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