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Statement of Commissioner Elliot F. Kaye on Consumer-Friendly Product Recalls: Six Basic Principles That Will Put Safety First and Improve Effectiveness

July 19, 2017

Consumer products are intertwined with each and every aspect of our lives.  Most of the products we rely upon are safe, and we can use them without incident.  Unfortunately, though, too many consumer products are dangerous and must be recalled to prevent further injuries or deaths. 

Recalls can take many different forms and have different strategies to help consumers.  Regardless of the recall, however, consumer safety must always come first.  To stay true to that goal, here are six basic principles that each recall should follow at a minimum:

  1. Make It Simple – A recall should solve the safety problem in one simple, easy-to-understand step for everyone who uses the product.  Whether the remedy is a fix of the product or a return of it, recalls should be clear and uncomplicated for consumers.
  2. Make It Fast – When a recall is announced, the remedy must be available right away and the process for consumers to take advantage of the recall must provide quick and immediate relief.
  3. Make It Free – A recall should never require consumers to incur any costs — whether financially or in time and resources spent — to benefit from the remedy and to protect themselves from a dangerous product.
  4. Make It Complete – The most effective recall completely removes the hazard and all at once.
  5. Give Consumers Choices – When faced with responding to a recall, some consumers might want to have a product fixed or replaced.  Others might want nothing to do with it anymore and seek a refund and a proper way to dispose of the product.  That choice should be the consumer’s to make, and the consumer’s alone.   Let each consumer choose what works best for that person among an array of options that all provide the highest level of safety.
  6. Recall With Full Effort – Recalling firms should put no less time, money, energy, creativity, personnel, etc., into recalling a product than they put into selling the product in the first place, and use all available forms of reaching consumers, including social media, paid advertising and personal outreach, if possible.  This is true regardless of the size or scope of the recall.

Ideally, no consumer product would ever need to be recalled.  Safety should be robustly built into the process from the design stage forward and remain a constant priority for companies.  The reality, though, is we are not there yet.  As long as recalls remain necessary to protect consumers, adherence to these six principles at a minimum will lead to more effective product recalls and to much safer consumers.

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