What's wrong with the U.S. product recall system
We have discussed on earlier occasions the fact that the U.S. product recall system is partly just "smoke and mirrors." Recalls are issued, but they rarely actually remove defective or dangerous products from households. The items probably get taken off the shelf, but if they were already sold, more than 80 percent are never turned back in. Consumers either aren't made aware of the recall and danger, or they don't take the steps necessary to turn the product back in or repair it. Examples of this problem were recently publicized by a Philadelphia newspaper.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a family whose child suffered injuries when the plastic wheel rim on their snowblower exploded. The snowblower's defective wheel rims had been recalled three years earlier and the company switched to metal rims. The snow throwers were made in Canada and marketed by MTD Company between 2004 and 2006, sold through Sears and Kmart, and ultimately 130,000 were "recalled." Customers who registered the item with the manufacturer at the time of sale were mailed a notice and repair kit.
The recall was relatively effective and unusually successful [probably because it was a big-ticket item, more likely to be registered for product warranty], as it was thought to have reached nearly 2/3 of the original owners of the snow throwers. Nevertheless, that leaves more than 40,000 machines still out there waiting to cause injury, and at least 200 injuries have been documented. When the company settles claims arising out of these injuries, it has insisted on a "gag" order that prevents widespread publication of the fact and extent of the problem. We need a more proactive system for reporting, investigating and removing from commerce defective products.