Today, recall compliance touches everyone involved with the product lifecycle. In the past, the onus was primarily on manufacturers, but in the face of increased regulatory pressure, retailers must also take steps to ensure that recalled products are properly managed—and kept out of consumers’ hands.
Retailers big and small can get caught off guard when a recall is announced. Knowing that it’s illegal to sell or distribute recalled products is one thing. Effectively managing inventory to prevent that from happening is another issue altogether. Major retailers have been hit with headline-making fines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ranging from about four million to nearly six. Companies have been found selling more than a dozen different products, often over a period of years.
So far in 2017, the total fines issued to both retailers and manufacturers are slightly lower than last year’s quarterly averages. Yet the numbers are still well above the CPSC’s reports from 2015. Since the retailer penalties aren’t limited to recent cases, it’s important for companies to be diligent with their recall strategies. Without the right plans in place, it can be nearly impossible to remove and quarantine recalled products from store shelves and online inventory. That lack of organization can lead to hefty fines that might otherwise be avoided.
Failing to handle recalled products properly doesn’t just put retailers at risk for civil penalties. They might inadvertently put their customers in danger’s way, too. Items are often recalled for fire hazards, laceration hazards, and even electrocution or shock hazards. And while the manufacturer is ultimately the party most affected by a recall, no one wants to be responsible for such tragedies. Retailers still need to do their part in removing recalled products from their inventory. Unfortunately, without a good strategy in place, some retailers can’t avoid making serious mistakes. That’s where recall preparedness comes into play.
The process is easier for everyone when retailers plan ahead and know how to handle recalls efficiently. The first step is to conduct a swift removal and quarantine of the defective products. If manufacturers aren’t performing this task, it can be a strain on internal teams. An outside field force can help by physically visiting each location and removing only the affected products. Retailers are focused on moving products, not storing recalled products they can’t legally sell. Still, they should be prepared to share information with customers who have questions about refunds or replacements. Not only does this show consumers that the company cares about their safety, it also demonstrates their commitment to providing great customer service.
As the old adage says: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of savings. Encouraging retailers to get into the fold of recall management before an incident occurs can help keep costs (and headaches) down for consumers and staff.
Rather than write a compliance program after a multimillion-dollar civil penalty, retailers should focus on preventing recall missteps. Companies work hard to maintain a strong public image, and a negative review of a product recall can make it difficult to recover. Planning for recall scenarios long before they occur allows retailers to stay in control, even during stressful situations.
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