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Inadvertently International: How Recalls Go Global

Global recalls bring an added layer of complexity. There are numerous, sometimes conflicting, regulations to follow. Consumers and the media often have different expectations and reactions. Various stakeholders typically speak many languages.

Companies that directly operate exclusively in one country may assume they will avoid these complications. But that isn’t always the case. It is easier than ever to move products across borders, and it happens frequently for a number of reasons. For example, the purchaser may relocate to another country or give the product away as a gift to a friend or family member living abroad. In addition, distributors and online retailers may sell to countries the manufacturing company didn’t intend. It may sound like a minor blip, but for some companies, it means having to adjust their plans significantly.

In those cases, companies are often caught off-guard and find themselves scrambling to catch up with the regulatory and cultural nuances of various regions. It is important to incorporate the likelihood of a global issue into recall plans, even when products are primarily sold within the United States. That means filling some significant gaps:

  • Language barriers. In addition to ensuring the number of agents is sufficient to manage the consumer response, it may be necessary to communicate in multiple languages. Some companies may have multilingual agents on hand, but others will need to find an alternate method.
  • Time zones. Imagine you have a concern about a product you own and you’re told to call between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. That’s what someone with a product purchased or obtained in some time zones might hear if hours aren’t extended to accommodate them.
  • Supply chain logistics. A recall often sheds light on how complex company supply chains can be – at the worst possible time. Companies should ensure they have protocols and mechanisms in place to issue and receive communications with their distribution networks, and they should take this step long before a recall occurs.
  • Regulations. This is arguably the most pressing challenge when it comes to global recalls. Think of all the forms involved. The notifications that must go out. The data that has to be gathered. Those are just a few of the details that can vary from country to country. Falling short in these areas can create major headaches for internal teams and frustration for retailers and end users. Differing regulations may allow companies to avoid a recall in some countries even when they are mandatory in others, but doing so can cause an outcry from local media and the public.

It is also important to adapt to customs and cultures. For some, a dedicated website is most efficient. Others may be more likely to respond to the recall by phone. The media may also react differently.

Any company whose recalls could potentially go global should take these factors into account. And if their teams lack the experience and understanding of these regulatory and cultural variations, they should seek guidance to help them navigate the complexities to avoid the dual risk of regulatory missteps and lost loyalty.

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