A product recall will usually be a safety alert or request from a manufacturer to return or repair a product following the discovery of a safety concern.
They're issued in one of two ways:
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.
When we talk about a product recall throughout this article, we mean any communication from a manufacturer about the safety of a product.
A manufacturer can use a variety of methods to ensure that people are notified of a product recall:
You can also check for recalled products yourself:
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.
At the moment, the UK still benefits from all the EU regulatory bodies that are responsible for safety assessments.
UK consumers are still able to access the Rapid Exchange of Information System (RAPEX) website to see what EU product recalls have been issued.
This could change after the transition period ends on 31st December 2020.
The process for a product recall can differ from product to product, but here's what you can broadly expect:
Contact the manufacturer in the first instance to find out how the recall will work, if you would like clarity and haven't yet been contacted.
When there is a product recall, you will usually be asked to provide proof of purchase.
If you weren't the purchaser (for example, you received the faulty product as a gift), the easiest route to getting your money back will be to get proof of purchase from the person who bought your gift, if this is possible. This is to make it easier for the retailer to process your claim from an administrative perspective.
If you’re not able to get proof of purchase and the person who paid by cash, you should go directly to the manufacturer.
The manufacturer should not require any proof of purchase. If you have the item your possession, that should be enough, and the manufacturer should arrange to retrieve, replace or fix the product.
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.
You should not be charged for any recall work - such as a repair.
Sometimes the manufacturer may offer you a deal where instead of a repair, it offers 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.
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.