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A bit of relevant info on the U.S. product safety/recall system

On Behalf of | May 18, 2015 | Consumer Protection

Have you ever wondered how product recalls work with large American businesses?

Some of our readers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere might reasonably assume that state and federal safety regulators are routinely on the ball and actively investigating products to determine whether they contain unreasonable risks that might harm consumers. A logical assumption might be that government safety officials are proactively negotiating with companies and, in some instances, mandating that they issue recalls for defective products or hammering bad-faith actors with punitive sanctions.

Uh, yes and no, but mostly no, as noted by CBS News in a recent article that takes a look at how recalls commonly issue and what the role of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is in the process.

It immediately bears noting the role played by the CPSC is largely passive, at least until a safety recall is issued. That job falls primarily to companies themselves, specifically the makers, importers, distributors and retailers of products sold within the United States.

As the above-cited article states, “The U.S. product safety system is largely based on self-reporting.”

And there certainly seems to be more than a modicum of subjectivity in the system, given that the onus to report defects and issue recalls often centers on an initial determination that a product presents a “substantial risk” of injury or creates an “unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.”

If company “A” thinks such risks are absent, it forgoes a recall. If company “B” thinks differently, it will announce a recall.

Often, the CPSC will enter the picture down the road and somewhat belatedly, investigating whether an entity violated reporting requirements by skipping a recall.

It is easy to see how an outcome can differ between two companies selling the same product, with one alerting consumers and the other simply continuing to sell products that might be — or have reasonably been proven to be — a danger to consumers.

The American marketplace should be safe for the buying public, with bad-faith business entities seeking to avoid expense by passing along safety risks to consumers being open to liability for deliberately failing to act in the face of those risks.

A consumer can take action to punish a wrongdoer and collect damages for injuries suffered from a defective product by contacting a proven consumer protection attorney.

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