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An examination of the product recall process - I

One of the most important tasks of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency "committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard," is initiating product recalls.

While you might think this would be a relatively streamlined and rapid process, this is not always the case. The reality is that the CPSC currently has jurisdiction over more than 15,000 different consumer product types, while the recall process itself can sometimes span just a few weeks or take upwards of a year.

In the next few posts, we'll take a brief look at the how the product recall process actually unfolds, including the hurdles sometimes encountered by the CPSC.

1) The CPSC learns of the problem for the first time

The process kicks off when the CPSC receives a complaint from a consumer via the Internet, mail or telephone about a particular product. (Companies are also legally required to share any and all information with the agency concerning potential consumer hazards within a span of 24 hours.)

2) The CPSC takes initial action

Once alerted to a potential problem, the CPSC will review the substance of the complaint to determine whether further inquiry is needed.

If it decides that it is not necessary to investigate any further, the matter will be dropped and no recall will be pursued. However, if officials determine that the complaint is indeed worthy of further review, an in-depth investigation -- or IDI -- is launched using the same product or, if unavailable, a product made in the same round of manufacturing. Here, the product will be subjected to multiple rounds of testing.

3) The results of the IDI determine the next step by the CPSC

If the results of the IDI indicate that no product recall is warranted, the matter will be dropped. Conversely, if the IDI reveals that the product does have certain issues, the CPSC will notify the company that a recall should be undertaken.

In our next post, we'll discuss the steps a company can take when presented with such a notification by the CPSC.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you or a loved one has suffered serious harm because of a dangerous item or defective product.

Source: Popular Mechanics, "How a product recall works," Dan Koeppel, June 21, 2012

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