Effective recalls, better information, safer consumers

27 May 2010

Significant changes to the way in which consumers will be informed of product recalls have been foreshadowed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

"In a major report, the Review of the Australian product safety recall system, the ACCC analysed the effectiveness of the current recall system," ACCC deputy chair Peter Kell said today.

"Product recalls are a crucial part of the Australian consumer product safety system – over the past 23 years, more than 10,000 recalls have taken place.  In 2009 there were 779 recalls in Australia, some involving many thousands of products.

"However, consumer responses to product recalls have varied widely and in some cases have been nearly non-existent. 

"The report gives a blueprint for changes to the recalls system, particularly about how consumers are alerted to recalls, with the aim of increasing awareness and recall response rates.

"The report recommends suppliers be expected to develop recall communication plans that target consumers based on demographics and communication preferences, including making greater use of social media and online forms of communication such as websites and blogs to advertise product recalls.

"I am particularly excited about the use of social media to tell consumers about product recalls," Mr Kell said.

"There is a real need for suppliers to implement tailored communications strategies in the event of a recall.  The days of relying just on newspaper advertisements as the major method of communication are past."

Highlighting the importance of utilising new communication methods, the ACCC has taken a leaf out of its own book to announce the release of this report.   It has:

  • sent 'tweets' on a newly established Twitter account:  @productsafetyAU. 
  •  blogged on a range of relevant sites
  • developed  a new recall 'widget'* which will be trialled on a range of relevant websites shortly, and 
  • directly emailed hundreds of industry associations and stakeholders.

The new Product Safety Recalls Australia website, http://www.recalls.gov.au, also allows consumers and businesses to sign up for electronic recall alerts about the types of products of most interest to them, such as children's products.

Other steps the ACCC is taking to improve recall effectiveness includes encouraging suppliers to place tracking labels on their products to enable the product to be easily traced as it moves through the supply chain and into the hands of consumers.

Suppliers will also be encouraged to use online warranty cards and registration systems and make greater use of loyalty card data to identify consumers who bought products which were later recalled.

The report also flags that the ACCC will not accept that a recall is finalised until the cause of the problem is identified and measures are put in place to ensure that it does not recur.

Many of the measures to improve the effectiveness of the recall system will be reflected in new recall guidelines for suppliers.

An electronic version of the publication is available at no cost on the ACCC website: http://www.accc.gov.au; the Product Safety Australia website: http://www.productsafety.gov.au and the Product Safety Recalls Australia website: http://www.recalls.gov.au.

*A widget is a web application that can be displayed on any website and allows visitors to that site to see the latest product recalls as well as search the recalls database for specific products or manufacturers.

Contact details

Media inquiries
Ms Lin Enright, director, media unit, (02) 6243 1108 or 0414 613 520
General inquiries
Infocentre: 1300 302 502
27 May 2010
NR 111/10