Product recalls: unsafe goods pulled from sale
Every year, more than 100 products are recalled because they’re not safe.
From cosmetics contaminated with mould to exploding scented candles, unsafe products get pulled from shop shelves every week.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated the average product recall may result in only half the faulty goods being returned. The rate of return is even lower for cheaper products. That’s a big concern considering many products have faults that could cause serious harm.
Behind the numbers
Over the past two years, 215 recalls were issued for household products.
Forty percent were kids products, including an unsafe stroller with a handle that could snap off and cheap plastic toys that posed a choking risk.
A sizable 24 percent of recalls were for products that could cause a fire. An electric foot warmer sold on discount site GrabOne was among them. Another eight percent of products were recalled because of the risk of electric shock.
It’s not just fly-by-night brands that feature on the recall list.
Kmart topped the list with eight recalled products. Farmers recalled five products over the past two years, including a remote control car that risked overheating and causing burns.
Since January 2019, The Warehouse has issued four recalls at its stores. The recalls included bikes with a defective crank arm that could come loose and cause the rider to topple off.
Furniture retailer Nood made the list too, recalling faulty tables. Mouldy makeup sold by cosmetics retailer Sephora also appeared.
What are the rules?
Companies selling products in our market have to ensure they’re safe. If they become aware of a problem, they need to act quickly to get the item off the market.
When they issue a recall, they have to advise the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) within two working days. MBIE posts recalls online at recalls.govt.nz.
Traders are also expected to publicise the recall but it’s largely up to individual companies to decide how this is done.
There’s no requirement for companies to report on recall rates – the number of products returned. This means there’s less incentive for them to make sure faulty products are removed from the market and one of the reasons why recalls can have a low success rate.
The result is there may be a burst of publicity when the recall is issued but not much more.
Compared with many other countries, we also have few mandatory standards setting safety requirements for consumer goods. Just six safety standards have been issued under the Fair Trading Act, covering bicycles, baby walkers, children’s toys and pyjamas, cots, and cigarette lighters.
MBIE has the power to investigate other suspect goods and stop them being sold. However, mandatory recalls are rare.
What are your rights?
If a product winds up being recalled because it’s unsafe, you can at least rely on your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act to get your money back.
The act makes it clear that products must be safe. If not, you’re entitled to return the item to the store you bought it from and request a refund. You don’t have to settle for a fix the manufacturer may be offering.
You also have the right to hold the retailer liable for any damage caused by an unsafe product. Did a faulty heater scorch your carpet? You’d have grounds to claim consequential losses from the retailer for the damage.
The CGA doesn’t cover private sales but it does cover products sold in second-hand shops. If you’re buying second-hand items, check recalls.govt.nz to make sure the product hasn’t been recalled. If it’s an electrical appliance, the Electricity Act states it must be safe, regardless of where you buy it.
For details of recalls relating to food, medicines and vehicles, check the following sites:
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