If it seems that almost every day we hear about some new consumer product being recalled due to a safety issue, the fact is: we are. From vehicles and safety seats, through to food, cosmetics, toys, medications, and other home and office items, more and more products are being declared as unfit for use in this day and age.

In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government’s watchdog for primary products, announces, on average, at least one recall every day. Furthermore, the United States sadly has the second highest number of product recalls by country of origin (China sits at number one); and more than 5,000 products have been recalled in the past 12 months.

If you’re worried about keeping your family safe and your finances intact when buying new items, read on for the lowdown on product recalls today.


What Is a Product Recall and How and When Do They Happen?

A recall is an action taken by a government department or manufacturer to protect consumers from products that may be faulty, contaminated, or otherwise unsafe and a cause for health and safety concerns. Recalls can ban the sale of items or limit their use, as well as involve getting purchasers to return items for repair or replacement. On some occasions, sellers also provide consumers with a part that can reduce the danger involved with using a product.

There are different departments within the U.S. government that deal with different types of products. When it comes to primary consumer products, such as toys, clothing, power tools, games, strollers, electric blankets, household cleaners, and more, it is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that oversees things.

This watchdog is an independent federal regulatory agency that is “charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction.”

There are numerous ways that recalls can come about. A lot of the time they happen because one person, or a number of consumers, experience a problem with a product and lodge a complaint with the manufacturer, or through the CPSC’s online database (found on the www.SaferProducts.gov website). Under federal law, companies producing items which consumers claim have a defect or hazard must report the potential issue to the CPSC.

From there, the regulatory body investigates the problem and determines if the general public needs to be notified. If this is the case, then the agency will negotiate with the manufacturer to resolve the matter, and come to an agreement about removing the products from homes, getting them repaired, and/or sending out warnings about usage.

Usually companies will voluntarily recall a product if, after investigation, it appears that it is faulty or hazardous. On some occasions though, if the manufacturer doesn’t come to an agreement with the CPSC about how to move forward, or if the business has closed down, the CPSC will do the recall itself. In addition, sometimes manufacturers will actually discover a problem themselves, and go about instigating a recall straight away.

What Types of Recalls Occur?

Recalls take place on pretty much every type of consumer product imaginable, and for many different reasons. A recall is instigated, though, if a product or its related equipment is seen to pose a risk to a user’s health or safety. Issues can arise from the construction or performance of an item, or in the components or materials used to make it.

Safety risks can be found in one particular product within a range; with a set of products, such as the Walmart card table set that caused fall hazards and finger amputations, or with an entire group of items produced by a manufacturer.

Take a look at news reports or at the list of recalls on the CPSC.gov website, and you’ll see that all sorts of different safety issues arise with consumer products. For example, items have been found to be choking, electrical, chemical, fire, falling, strangulation, laceration, injury or shock hazards, as well as in violation of the Federal Lead Paint Standard.


What to Do If You’re Affected

While it is a good idea to research products before you buy to ensure they haven’t been recalled, oftentimes consumers end up with items anyway which have been found to be dangerous well after release and purchase.

To help protect yourself and your family, be aware that the CPSC usually issues and distributes a press release about recalled items, and then posts this on its website. If you’d like to be notified of recalls straight away, you can sign up for email alerts from the regulatory body. As well, most manufacturers list details about recalls on their websites.

If a recall happens for a product you own, it is vital that you heed the warning issued with the notice. For example, the recall data might say that products must not be used until a particular hazard is fixed (in which case you need to return yours to the manufacturer for repair), or that a product needs to be returned and disposed of. If you have doubts about the safety of an item you own, it is best to get rid of it rather than take the risk of continuing to use it, even if you have never experienced any issues yourself.

If, unfortunately, you or a family member are injured or otherwise harmed by a defective product, keep in mind that you may be liable for compensation. To find out more about this, it pays to get some legal advice from a specialist.