The Basics of Product Recall

In 1972, the Consumer Product Safety Act was enacted by the United States Congress. Under this law, the public is protected from exposure to consumer products presenting unreasonable risks of injury. It created the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as its implementing agency.

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 provided further safety requirements for children’s products as well as the protection of whistleblowers who take certain actions to raise concerns about consumer product safety. The CPSC has the power to develop safety standards and pursue recalls for products that present unreasonable or substantial risks of injury or death to consumers. It has jurisdiction over more than 15,000 kinds of consumer products.

Although it doesn’t have jurisdiction over some categories of product like automobiles and other on-road vehicles, tires, boats, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, food, drugs, cosmetics, pesticides, and medical devices. The CPSC also doesn’t have the legal authority to test or certify products for safety.

A product recall is a request to return to the manufacturer a batch or an entire production run of a product or the removal from sale of products that may constitute a risk to consumers because of contamination, sabotage, or faults in the production.

Other Responsible Government Agencies

Since not all consumer products are under the jurisdiction of the CPSC, the other US government agencies that have the power to issue product recalls are:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – On-road vehicles and other related products like cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tires, children’s safety seats, helmets and the like.
  • Food and Drug Administration – Food, pharmaceutical drugs, health supplements, beverages and even cosmetics.
  • US Coast Guard – Marine vehicles and other related products such as boats, watercrafts, life jackets, etc.
  • Environmental Protection Agency – Pesticides, fertilizers and anything harmful to the public.
  • Federal Aviation Administration – All aircrafts

How to Report a Defective or Dangerous Product

However, since some products may escape the scrutiny of authorities, consumers who get injured by defective products may report a product-related injury or unsafe product or file a defective product liability claim against manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others.

According to the CPSC, the consumer may report the product either online, by e-mail (hazard@cpsc.gov), through phone (800/638-2772, x650) and fax (800/809-0924) or by sending a letter (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Injury Report, Washington, DC 20207). The CPSC will investigate the complaint or in cases where the manufacturer of the defective product is identified, the CPSC would forward it to the manufacturer who may reply directly to the consumer’s concern.

Once it is determined through the investigation that the product is detrimental to public safety and welfare and that recall or other action is required, the CPSC will issue a press release to the public.

The CPSC posts new product recall announcements on its homepage as soon as they are issued. Consumers mat also opt to join the agency’s product recall e-mail subscription list to be updated on the status of certain products.


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