SEATTLE'S MORNING NEWS

What you should do when you own a product that has been recalled

Mar 19, 2024, 1:00 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2024, 4:06 pm

Recall products...

Shelves are bare and signs are posted where products were displayed in a grocery store. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced 323 product recalls last year, the most in seven years.

Tens of millions of items, including toys, clothing and home appliances, were involved. When a company offers a refund, the information is entered into a new report. However, it can sometimes be difficult to collect the information.

“These products are recalled for a wide range of risks, including fire burns, falls, cuts, choking, and suffocation as well as exposure to toxic chemicals,” Herb Weisbaum, contributing editor of  checkbook.org told Seattle’s Morning News. “Those recalls were connected to 550 injuries, 15 deaths and more than 500 fires. So, it’s concerning there are so many recalls. And it’s really concerning if people don’t find out about them or pay attention and return the products or stop using them.”

Weisbaum said of the 15,000 products the CPSC regulates, few have standards they are required to meet.

“Some products, such as bike helmets, can be banned before they hit the market because they don’t meet the government safety standards. But in most cases, there are no standards to meet,” Weisbaum said. “The agency can only respond to complaints from consumers or reports from doctors or hospitals about products injuring people. So that’s why it’s really important if a product injures you to file a complaint with the CPSC.”

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Weisbaum said the CPSC can announce a voluntary recall.

“That word ‘voluntary’ is critical that companies work with the government,” Weisbaum explained. “The companies have to agree to the terms of the recall and the wording of the recall announcement. It’s not up to the regulators. If they want to fight this recall or delay it, they can. So some of these recalls are delayed weeks or months.”

Weisbaum said the companies get to control this, and that was how Congress designed the system. He explained that many people have called for changing that to give the regulator more power to order these recalls.

“So that’s another reason so many dangerous products are hitting the market,” Weisbaum said. “And then, of course, all the imports. We’re buying things online from China and other companies that don’t have many of the safety standards we do. Put it all together and you got a lot of dangerous products floating around.”

Weisbaum also said another problem is there are often many hoops to jump through when there is a recall. Every case is different.

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“Maybe you have to call a telephone number that only works during normal business hours. Maybe the website is difficult to use. Maybe the website makes you fill out an order form that they send you, then you have to fill the form out,” Weisbaum added. “Sometimes you have to take it back to the store.”

Sometimes, in a recall, customers think they are getting their money back, but Weisbaum said it is often not that simple.

“For some companies, a refund means, ‘We’re going to give you a credit towards another purchase from our company or a prorated refund based on the age of the product.’ So you bought a dangerous product, but they didn’t let you know about it for a couple of years. ‘Well, you got a couple of years out of that blender that could break apart and throw shrapnel all over the place. We’re going to prorate the recall of the refunds.’ So, there’s a call for they just wanted to point out how bizarre our process is and maybe there’s a need to do some changing.”

Weisbaum said that checkbook.org has information on how to file complaints and get recall notices. He said saferproducts.gov is another good website for product information.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here

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What you should do when you own a product that has been recalled