If there's a product recall, what are my rights?

A product recall is a request to return a product after a safety issue or defect has been found that could be dangerous. 

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What is a product recall?

When you read about product recalls, they will usually be safety alerts from a manufacturer following the discovery of a safety concern with a product.

They're issued in one of two ways: 

  1. After the manufacturer has agreed a course of action with the relevant enforcement body - usually Trading Standards - to deal with the potentially unsafe product.
  2. If a course of action can't be agreed between the manufacturer and the enforcement body, the enforcement body issues a formal safety notice. 

A recall notice is the most severe level of safety notice. 

Depending on what kind of safety notice is issued, there are differing levels of obligations on manufacturers and distributors.

  • Suspension notice The manufacturer, distributor and retailers must not sell the goods while safety evaluations, checks and controls are performed.
  • Requirement to warn The manufacturer or distributor must issue a warning about a dangerous product to past and future consumers.
  • Withdrawal notice The manufacturer or distributor must withdraw a dangerous product from the market and possibly, warn past customers.
  • Recall notice The manufacturer or distributor must recall a dangerous product from all retailers and past customers.

Whirlpool recall

Tumble dryer fire

More than 100 Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda (all brands owned by Whirlpool) tumble dryer models manufactured between April 2004 and October 2015 could pose a fire risk.

If your dryer is one of those affected by the fire safety alert, our advice is to contact Whirlpool to arrange a service and to not use it until it's been serviced. 

Know your rights, use our advice on the Whirlpool tumble dryer recall.

Has your product been recalled?

When we talk about a product recall throughout this article, we mean any communication from a manufacturer about the safety of a product. 

If you become aware that a product you own has been recalled or has any safety noticed issued against it, make sure you follow any instructions given to you by the manufacturer.

If you don't receive instructions, check the manufacturer's website, or if you're concerned, stop using the product immediately. 

The manufacturer of the product should communicate with you about the recall and state how it will work. 

For example, they might arrange for the product to be collected or they could send out engineers to make repairs. 

The manufacturer should also give you an idea of how long the process will take.

It's worth noting that the recall process can differ from product to product. 

If you're effected by a product recall, you should speak to the manufacturer in the first instance to find out how the recall will work.

Poor product recall awareness

UK charity Electrical Safety First estimates that the average success rate of an electrical product recall in the UK is just 10-20%, meaning there could be millions of unsafe electrical items still in UK homes.

Enforcement for product recalls

According to the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, manufacturers and distributors are obliged to notify the relevant enforcement agency as soon as they become aware that they have put an unsafe product on the market.

In the UK, there is no single body or institution with the responsibility of ensuring safety requirements in relation to all products.

Instead, the particular type of product may have its own enforcement agency – such as the Food Standards Agency or Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. 

For most home electrical products, Trading Standards is the enforcement agency.

A manufacturer can use a variety of methods to ensure that people are notified of a product recall:

  • If they have your details as a result of the purchase of the product, they can contact you directly.
  • If not, then the enforcement agency may require the manufacturer to publicise the recall in newspapers or TV news programmes.

You can also check for recalled products yourself:

You can also search for EU-wide product safety warnings on the EU Commission’s rapid alert system website.

Product recall problems

You should not be charged for any recall work - such as a repair to your machine. 

Sometimes the manufacturer may offer you a deal where instead of a repair, it may offer you a replacement at a greatly discounted rate. 

You'll need to weigh up the age of your product and how much the manufacturer is charging to see if this represents good value to you. 

The manufacturer may also take an unreasonably long time to repair or replace your product in which case you may need to weigh up whether an alternative course of action could resolve the issue any quicker. 

Should I pay?

Sometimes the manufacturer may offer you the chance to pay a fee to have the faulty product replaced rather than have it repaired. 

Depending on how long you've owned the product and how much you paid for it, this could represent better value for money than having an older machine repaired or pursuing a claim against the retailer or your credit card provider.

For example, five years ago you paid £200 for a tumble dryer and it's now recalled. The manufacturer offers to replace it with a new and updated model for £99. This will probably be better value than the partial refund you could be entitled to if you claim against the retailer or your credit card company.

Use our guides to find out more about your rights when returning faulty goods.

Can I claim against the retailer?

In some cases you could be able to get a repair or replacement without any further cost to you by taking your claim to the retailer who sold you the recalled product in the first place. 

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that products must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, which includes that they be safe and durable.

If a product has had a safety notice issued against it or if it has been voluntarily recalled, then it will have failed to meet these standards and you could claim a repair or replacement from the retailer - or in some circumstances, a refund.

If you purchased the product after 1 October 2015, you can use our faulty goods tool to start your claim against the retailer.

Where there has been a recall, this can complicate your faulty goods claim and Which? doesn't believe the emphasis should be on consumers to take this action. 

If you purchased the product before 1 October 2015, you have rights against the retailer to a repair or replacement under the Sale of Goods Act or the Supply of Goods and Services Act.

Claim against a credit card provider

If you’ve spent more than £100 and less than £30,000 on your credit card, or if the retailer arranged credit for you, you can claim against your credit provider if something has gone wrong. 

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, your credit card company is jointly liable for any breach of contract.

This means your credit provider shares equal responsibility with the retailer or trader for the goods or service supplied, allowing you to put your claim to the credit provider.

You don't have to reach stalemate with the retailer or manufacturer before you can contact your credit provider - you can make simultaneous claims or just pursue your credit provider. 

Section 75 is particularly useful if the retailer or manufacturer has gone bust or you're getting no response to your letters or phone calls.

If death, damage or injury is caused

According to the Consumer Protection Act 1987, anyone who’s harmed by an unsafe product can sue the manufacturer - even if you didn’t buy the product yourself.

You can sue for compensation for death or injury. You can also sue for damage or loss of private property caused by faulty goods if the damage amounts to at least £275.

The amount that can be claimed will depend on the harm suffered and there is no upper limit to compensation.

There are also certain criminal sanctions that apply to the general safety of products. For example, a lack of safety information can lead to up to 12 months’ imprisonment and a large fine.

Consumer Protection Act

The first claim under the Consumer Protection Act was not brought to court until 2000. That’s 12 years after the Act came into force.

Since then there have been very few court cases as it seems most claims are settled out of court. 

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