Firms are failing to warn customers who’ve bought risky or defective goods, warn experts as they call for an overhaul of recall rules
Consumer safety experts are calling for an overhaul of the rules governing product recalls, amid fears that too few people are being warned when items they have purchased turn out to be defective or hazardous.
Typically only 10 per cent of faulty items are sent back by customers when a shop or manufacturer recalls a potentially unsafe product.
Consumer group Which? claims this figure proves the current recall system is ‘broken’ and that consumers are being ‘put at risk’ by weak regulation, with manufacturers pulling all the strings.
One of the worst examples of an ineffective warning and recall system relates to faulty tumble dryers made by brands owned by Whirlpool
Critics, led by Which?, are calling for a central, independent system to be set up to oversee product recalls. Currently, although the law dictates how businesses must react when a problem with a product is discovered, the method of informing customers is at best patchy.
There are websites people can check and alerts often appear in newspaper articles and on TV shows. But these are insufficient to cover the multitude of problems that arise each year.
Dozens of household items have been recalled since the start of the year – from tumble dryers at risk of bursting into flames to a baby teething ring that presents a choking hazard.
One of the worst examples of an ineffective warning and recall system relates to faulty tumble dryers made by brands owned by Whirlpool. In some instances they burst into flames. The company first flagged warnings that certain models needed modifying four years ago – machines sold under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan brand names between April 2004 and the end of September 2015.
Customers were told to unplug their machines and wait for an engineer to repair them. But the message did not reach everyone while many customers were left waiting an age for their machine to be repaired.
Some 546 electrical items have been recalled since 2007
Neena Bhati, head of campaigns at Which?, says: ‘The recall of these fire-risk machines took four years because of the lack of capability and capacity to handle the crisis at a national level.’ Customers whose machines have still not been fixed are now being offered a replacement. There is no charge for delivery and installation, or removal of the old dryer.
The list of manufacturers whose appliances and products pose a risk is long and wide-ranging.
Among them is Apple, which is recalling older models of its 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops. This is due to fire safety concerns relating to overheating batteries.
Some 546 electrical items have been recalled since 2007, according to campaigning charity Electrical Safety First.
The charity’s chief executive Phil Buckle says: ‘The success rate for a recall rarely exceeds 20 per cent of faulty products being returned, leaving millions of potentially unsafe items in homes. The effectiveness of any recall primarily relies on consumers registering their products with the manufacturer as this is the only way they can be contacted if a product is found to be unsafe.’ But the group’s research indicates that only a third of electrical products bought are registered. The charity is now calling for a centralised recall database.
Children’s toys are often recalled. Recent examples include a baby teething ring that easily broke into small parts and toy slime kit ‘Glow Goo’ that was found to contain too much of a chemical known as boron which causes sickness and diarrhoea in excessive quantities.
Cars are also subject to recalls. Breakdown company the RAC estimates that up to a million vehicles are recalled for safety repairs each year.
This month, models of the Range Rover Evoque, made between October 5, 2018, and April 4, 2019, were recalled as a result of a defect that could prevent the windscreen wipers from working.
More than 100 food alerts have been raised by the Food Standards Agency since January. Most relate to allergy fears because of incorrect labelling.
Recent examples include Waitrose soups that were filled with the wrong soup, pet food contaminated with salmonella bacteria and Quorn cocktail sausages containing small pieces of metal.