Most of us have seen or received a product recall notice at one time or another. Recalls alert the public to products that present a significant risk because they are either defective or in violation of standards set by the federal government. Deaths, injuries and property damage from incidents involving consumer products cost the nation more than $700 billion a year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The recall system is a direct result of complaints received from consumers, and you can file a complaint about a hazardous product with the appropriate federal regulating agency, listed below. Testing by the company or the government may also produce a recall. If a manufacturer voluntarily recalls one of its products, you might learn about it directly from the company itself or a notice at the store where you purchased the item, or through publications such as Consumer Reports.
If a product belonging to you has been recalled, the company must make a reasonable attempt to contact you. While this usually works well for automobiles because they are registered with the state, many products do not require any type of registration; nor would there be any record of your owning an item if you had purchased it second-hand or failed to return the registration card. However, most product recalls have no expiration date and will still apply even if you do not learn about a particular recall until several years after it was issued.
It’s a good idea to check periodically to make sure there has not been a safety recall of anything you own. As soon as you learn that you do have a recalled item, you should stop using it and follow the instructions included in the recall notice describing the remedy being offered.
You can go to the federal government’s online database at www.recalls.gov to do a general search of recall announcements.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues recalls on food, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issues recalls on vehicles, tires and child-safety seats.
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recalls on everyday products from clothes to coffeemakers.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues recalls on meat, poultry and egg products.
- The U.S. Coast Guard issues recalls on boats and boating equipment.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues recalls on pesticides and auto emission systems.