Australia wide reports of weary consumers experiencing Total Recall on a Groundhog Day scale continue pouring in as consumer product safety recalls show little sign of ceasing according to the latest ACCC results announced yesterday. “Recalls have been trending up every year for the last five years” commented Ms Delia Rickard the ACCC Deputy Chair, “More and more, we are seeing suppliers seeking to keep costs down, sourcing from overseas countries without having direct oversight of every step of the supply chain.” The latest statistics reveal that product recalls have increased in the 2015-16 financial year up to 670 recalls from 596 in the previous year. Automobiles accounting for the highest individual sector at 182 recalls. Simultaneously, suppliers have become increasingly conscious of a burden of responsibility when it comes to acting quickly to recall unsafe items and or products.

Do You Know Your Consumer Recall Rights?

In February of 2016 Toyota Australia recalled 98,000 RAV4 automobiles for performance related faults on all models constructed between the dates of Aug 2005 – Nov 2012. Next after cars on the most recalled list comes foodstuffs and groceries, in some cases as a result of undeclared allergens such as different types of nuts or egg or contaminants such as metal filings or rogue bacteria. Then closely followed by electrical and gas appliances, sporting goods, children’s products, home/garden items, IT & Multimedia, beauty products and fashion clothing/ apparel. Thus it comes as no big surprise that ACCC has now launched the Product Safety Australia website initiative to address consumer safety issues and relevant safety standards and to dispense information on specialist agencies that manage certain jurisdictions outside of the powers of the ACCC. To emphasise the point Ms Rickard concluded “Consumers can easily check our recalls information to ensure they don’t have any unsafe goods lying around in their homes or garages and act quickly to remove potentially harmful products from their homes if they have been thus recalled.”

Studies have shown that 70% of consumers are most likely to return a recalled item that is valued at over $25. The key factors in the failure or success of a recall operation appear to be price, product lifespan, communication channel and perceived risk of the faulty product. The first 6-8 weeks of any recall operation are critical in terms of fast customer response and overall co-operation. A common mentality with the everyday consumer is a tendency to believe “It won’t happen to me” thus ignoring the news reports of faulty items and products to be recalled. A good example is the Samsung mass recall, a full refund was offered to all washing machine consumers of that period yet 20% of models remained unreturned?

In 2015-16 Australian consumers witnessed a grand total of 123 food and grocery related recalls and more than double that in automobile recalls. The ACCC have made a special point of desperately urging all active Australian consumers to register with the new product safety website and to stay informed of up to date reports. “We will work with suppliers to do everything that is needed, but there is no absolute guarantee that every shipment of goods is 100% free of defectMs Rickard added.

At the end of the day, Product safety regulation in Australia is a shared responsibility between the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the listed states and territories. The clear role of the ACCC being to identify and address the risk of serious injury and death from safety hazards in consumer products, assessing information and taking action on such matters involving negotiation/s on the recall of goods, education of relevant industry and consumers, mediation on voluntary changes to packaging labeling or product design, introduction of changes to mandatory requirements and/or working to implement changes to product safety standards and or bans. A collection of important initiatives in line with the Australian Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda. Australia has enjoyed a period of relatively strong consumer confidence over the last decade and with the right protocols and measures in place retailers, wholesalers and distributors look set to continue a two-way relationship built on the well-intentioned premise of productivity versus trust.