Manufacturers may turn to federal agencies for assistance launching and organizing a recall and alerting the public about a product defect. In some cases, federal agencies will become involved in recalls based on consumer complaints or studies revealing health risks. Federal agencies can conduct investigations and order manufacturer action in situations where it becomes apparent a product is harmful.
Consumers need to be aware when a product they are using is recalled and should ensure they follow guidance for protecting themselves, whether this means discontinuing the use of the product, sending the product back to the manufacturer, or getting the product repaired. If news of a recall does not reach a consumer and a product causes harm due to a defect, the consumer may be eligible to make a personal injury claim in order to recover monetary payment of damages caused by the defective product.
What Federal Agencies Handle Product Recalls?
Different products are under the purview of different federal agencies, and informed consumers need to know where to check to determine if the products they are using are recalled. Life Hacker has published a comprehensive summary of what federal agencies handle which types of product recalls.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the broadest responsibility for overseeing product safety and handling recalls. CPSC handles recalls of virtually all products including electronic items, household appliances and household products, clothing and shoes, kids toys, and anything else not specifically covered by a different category.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a far more narrow range of responsibilities when it comes to recalls and defective products. NHTSA is responsible only for recalls affecting vehicles, vehicle accessories, or vehicle parts. Parents who want to find out about car seat recalls or drivers concerned about faulty brakes, ignition problems, dangerous tires, or defective airbags should consult information from NHTSA.
Finally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) share responsibility for recalls of the majority of food and drug products. With the exceptions of shellfish and alcohol, FDA and USDA oversee essentially all recalls of items people can ingest.
Three different categories of FDA recalls have been established so consumers can immediately understand the level of risk presented by the drugs and consumables they are putting into their bodies. When a product is so dangerous it is likely to cause death or permanent harm which cannot be cured or reversed, the product will be subject to a Class I recall. If the product could be harmful but there are treatments available for the damage or the harm is temporary, the product is subject to a Class II recall. Finally, in situations where a product is in violation of labeling rules or other regulations, it will be subject to a Class III recall.
Savvy consumers will check websites for all these agencies on a regular basis to make sure they are not using any high-risk products. If news of a defect does not reach a product user before the product malfunctions and injury occurs, the victim harmed by the defective product may take legal action in a personal injury case.