Product safety recall code of practice launched
THE VOLUNTARY code provides ‘clear guidance’ for retailers to help ‘improve the success’ of recalls from consumers.
Belfast Telegraph reported on the new code of practice for product safety recalls, which aims to help retailers ‘improve the success’ of recalls, and is the ‘first major announcement’ from the Office for Product Safety and Standards, launched in January. The office will ‘manage responses to large-scale product recalls’, as well as identify risks from products, aims to ‘manage recalls’ of products and is ‘strengthening the UK’s product safety regime’, and offer businesses ‘hit by unfair competition from rogue firms’ with assistance.
This comes after news earlier this year that the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee had criticised the government for not yet overhauling a ‘flawed and poorly resourced’ safety regime for electrical white goods. In August last year, London Fire Brigade (LFB), Electrical Safety First and other organisations and individuals sent a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May urging action on white goods fires. In particular, the committee was scathing of the previous revelation that one million faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers are being used in the UK.
Whirlpool has faced criticism for its failure to recall the up to one million dryers that pose a fire risk, and its range of appliances caused ‘three times more’ fires in London than any other manufacturer, according to LFB data. In turn, last year a Welsh coroner said the company’s ‘reluctance to digest inquest lessons’ was an ‘obstacle to preventing further deaths’, after two men died in a fire in their flat in Llanrwist, North Wales in October 2014.
MPs were also angered by Whirlpool’s decision to close its replacement scheme for two types of dryers, launched in 2015, under its Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan brands. These could be a fire risk ‘following reports of fires started by excess fluff catching the heating element in the machines’. The committee wrote to Whirlpool asking why it had ‘chosen to end the scheme’, and criticised the government for being too slow to overhaul a ‘flawed and poorly resourced’ safety regime for white goods.
It also urged Whirlpool to repair faulty machines ‘within two weeks of being contacted’ by owners, or explain action it plans to take, calling its previous response ‘inadequate’. In its view, the government must give ‘serious consideration’ to establishing a ‘single national product safety agency’, which the Office for Product Safety and Standards has been revealed to be.
The code of practice was launched alongside the British Standards Institution (BSI), with recommendations for retailer best practice including ‘collecting and holding’ customer information for recalls separately from marketing databases, as well as providing a freephone number and photograph ‘in all recall communication’, and ‘regular testing’ of recall plans.
According to government reports, the average success rate for product safety recalls is ‘very low’, with only 10 to 20% of consumers responding ‘despite realising the potential danger’. Andrew Griffiths, Consumer Minister, stated: ‘This new Code of Practice will support businesses in dealing with product safety issues swiftly and effectively, ensuring people can continue to buy secure in the knowledge there is an effective system in place if products need to be repaired or replaced.
‘Effective regulation is a key element of our Industrial Strategy, which is creating the conditions for businesses to succeed in the UK and to compete in the global economy.’
Scott Steedman, director of standards at BSI, added: ‘Public interest in product safety is higher than it has ever been and whilst consumer products generally perform without problems, there are times when products can become faulty and require a repair or recall. The Code of Practice was created to ensure that corrective action by manufacturers is taken in a safe and systematic way. The launch of this guidance is an important step in ensuring even higher levels of product safety in the future.’
Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?, commented: ‘If the Government is serious about protecting consumers from unsafe products then this code must not perpetuate the already fragmented system for reporting faulty products that relies on overstretched local trading standards teams. The OPSS urgently needs to set out an action plan for keeping dangerous products out of consumers’ homes and tackling Britain’s broken product safety regime.’