Conducting a recall

If a product is found to present a safety risk, it may need to be recalled. Recalling products identified as safety hazards can help to prevent injuries to consumers.

When a recall is required

Many suppliers voluntarily initiate their own recalls after becoming aware that one or more of their products presents a safety risk. If suppliers are identified as having sold consumer products that are unsafe, product recalls may also be negotiated by the ACCC or other regulators.

In some cases, the ACCC can recommend that the responsible Commonwealth Minister initiate a compulsory recall in order to protect the public from an unsafe product. The ACCC will direct the manner in which the compulsory recall is to occur and will enforce compliance.

The product safety recall process involves:

  • stopping the supply of a product
  • informing the relevant authorities of the problem
  • warning consumers of the hazard the product presents
  • offering consumers a remedy in the form of a repair, replacement or refund.

See: ACCC Product Safety Recall Guidelines

Who to notify of a recall

Under Australian Consumer Law (ACL), suppliers are required to notify the Commonwealth Minister responsible for competition and consumer policy within two days of initiating a voluntary recall action. If a death or serious injury or illness has been associated with a product, you also need to lodge a mandatory report with the ACCC.

There are others that may need to be notified, including:

  • Other parties in the domestic supply chain - suppliers must give written notification to other parties or entities in the supply chain that a recall has been initiated
  • Regulators and statutory authorities - depending on the product, suppliers may need to notify a specialist Commonwealth regulator, or a state and territory electrical and gas safety authority of the recall
  • International product recipients - suppliers must issue a recall notification to any person outside Australia that they have supplied the affected goods to. The recall notification must state that the goods are subject to a recall, and, if they contain a defect, have a dangerous characteristic, or do not comply with a prescribed consumer product safety standard, set out the nature of the defect or non-compliance. Within 10 days of issuing the notification to relevant overseas recipients, suppliers must provide a copy of the notification to the responsible Commonwealth Minister.

Promoting a recall

Details of a recall can be communicated through a variety of means, including:

  • media releases
  • television and radio advertising
  • recall notices in printed and online newspapers, magazines and newsletters
  • recall notices displayed in store and on the supplier's website
  • distributer and supplier networks
  • social networks such as Twitter and Facebook
  • industry blogs, forums or chat rooms
  • contacting consumers via warranty and service programs
  • contacting consumers via loyalty programs.
  • sales and service staff.

As a supplier, you will be able to target your customers more directly if you know who they are and how they are accessing your products. If you are unable to identify who your customers are or where the products you sold are most likely to be located, you will need to advertise more widely to ensure a successful recall.

See: Recall advertisement templates

Planning for recalls

If a recall is not conducted successfully the first time around, suppliers may find that the process of revisiting a recall costly and time consuming.

There are several steps you can take to reduce the impact of a product recall on a business:

  • identify your customers and the best ways of reaching them by referring to your sales and marketing databases, online product registrations and warranty cards
  • keep details of all suppliers involved in the manufacture, supply and sale of each product
  • record details of key components of your products, including batch numbers and supplier details
  • ensure that batch numbers are recorded and tracked on products, not just the packaging
  • decide how each product, if recalled, can be collected, repaired or destroyed
  • consider providing incentives such as gift vouchers to encourage customers to participate in the recall
  • consider obtaining recall insurance and/or expert crisis management advice
  • clarify who is responsible for specific recall tasks in the organisation.

A product recall system should suit the specific products you supply and consider the degree of risk those products may pose to consumers. Consider seeking independent legal advice when developing your consumer product recall systems.

Notify the Commonwealth Minister