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ACCC introduces new Product Safety Recall Guidelines

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Following the introduction of the Australian Consumer Law Bill to Federal Parliament earlier this year, the ACCC conducted a review of its Consumer Product Safety Recall Guidelines. Both have resulted in changes to the Consumer Product Safety Regime in Australia. This is the first in a series of articles regarding the recent changes to the Consumer Product Safety Regime in Australia.

The review resulted in the ACCC releasing new Consumer Product Safety Recall Guidelines (“Recall Guidelines”) in August 2010 which have formalised some of the processes the ACCC has been using in the past twelve months. The Recall Guidelines have amended four key areas.

Notification

Suppliers must notify the Commonwealth minister when they undertake a recall. In the case of products such as motor vehicles, therapeutic goods, food products, electrical goods, animal medicines and agricultural products, suppliers must notify specialist agencies for recalls of these items.

The requirements for notifications to consumers have also been modified to provide that all recall notices include the following information:

  1. Product Description
  2. Picture of the Product
  3. Description of the defect
  4. Statement of the Hazard
  5. What consumers should do
  6. Contact details of the supplier.

Specifically, the ACCC has stipulated that a recall notice must not include the words ‘voluntary recall’.

Notifications must be sent out to consumers and members of the supply chain alike, as well as being prominently placed on a supplier’s website.

Recall Strategy

ACCC requires suppliers to submit a recall strategy to the ACCC on initiating a recall. The content of the strategy can be negotiated with the ACCC prior to its submission. The strategy must include:

  1. An explanation of the problem/hazard
  2. Number of products supplied to consumers and the supply chain
  3. Information concerning any known injuries or incidents associated with the product
  4. Information about the life cycle of the product
  5. A proposed communication strategy (ie the method of communication, frequency of repeat communications and details of the message)
  6. Proposed method of recall (ie collected, destroyed, repaired or refunded)
  7. Contact details for the manufacturer, the entities in the supply chain and any international consumers
  8. Analysis of the cause of the problem/hazard.

It is important that when developing a communication strategy, suppliers ensure that the mediums used are appropriate for the target demographic of the recalled product. The ACCC has supplied a useful table of various consumer groups’ preferred method of communication.

Retrieving the Product

A recall’s ultimate goal is to retrieve as many unsafe products from consumers as possible and to prevent any further distribution within the marketplace. Accordingly, the ACCC requires suppliers to make arrangements for the retrieval of the recalled products which are easy for consumers to manage.

Reporting

In recent times the ACCC has developed a detailed reporting scheme which suppliers are required to meet in order to close a recall. This requires that suppliers conducting recalls provide the ACCC with regular progress reports to monitor the progress and assess the effectiveness of the recall. Information required by the ACCC will be dependent on the circumstances of the recall.

Our Dispute Resolution & Litigation lawyers can assist you with conducting recalls or answer any queries you may have about the process.

Author:  Louise Tolson

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