Consumers Die While Recall Process Plods Along: Report

Consumers Die While Recall Process Plods Along: Report

Safety recalls are intended to alert consumers to dangerous products and give them a clear pathway to replacing or modifying the defective product. But a new report from U.S. PIRG finds the process drags along so slowly that consumers continue to be injured and even killed before the recalls are actually issued.

“The facts are chilling,” said PIRG Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray, author of a new report, Safe At Home? Product recalls often take months or years. “Time after time, you read these complaints about scary events, injuries and even deaths. In some cases, it takes months or years for a dangerous product to get recalled. In other cases, consumers get injured by a product that was recalled a long time ago, but they may not have heard about the recall.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced 292 product recalls in 2022, 33 percent more than the previous year. but the PIRG study found that months often pass before defective products from toys to treadmills are actually recalled.

Among the key findings in the report:

  • Incident reports show that products frequently are connected to serious incidents, yet it takes too long for the company and government to announce a recall.
  • Re-announcements of certain recalls show that injuries often continue to occur long after the initial recall. For example, Generac Power Systems of Wisconsin in November renewed its recall on 321,160 portable generators after people continued to report finger amputations 16 months after the initial recall.
  • Among last year’s 292 recalls, 65 of them – or 22% – involved injuries or deaths.

In one example of a dangerous delay in recalls being issued, a 37-year-old woman last March told the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) the carbon monoxide detector went off in her house. She suspected her gas range, made by ZLINE Kitchen and Bath of Nevada. The gas company said the range was indeed the culprit, according to a complaint filed with the CPSC.

Nine months and 43 other complaints about carbon monoxide later, ZLINE finally issued a recall on 28,000 gas ranges because they “can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide,” the notice said.

“While improving product safety is the overall goal so recalls aren’t necessary,” Murray said, “it’s clear that regulators and lawmakers need to look at why some unsafe products don’t get recalled sooner and why consumers continue to use dangerous products after a recall.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a longtime product safety proponent, said: “U.S. PIRG [Education Fund]’s new report reaffirms the urgent need to improve slow and ineffective product recalls that put Americans at risk.”

The report also offers recommendations to improve the recall process, and tips for consumers to protect themselves.