Targeting retailers, buyers
Any recall has two targets: retailers and consumers. Government regulators say most stores can quickly pull defective products from shelves and block their sale at the cash register. The tougher battle is getting the consumer to act.
“We do a good job of getting dangerous products off store shelves, but we do believe the greatest challenge is getting dangerous products out of the homes,” said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversaw 465 product recalls in 2009, involving tens of millions of items, from circular saws to Jesus Fish Beads.
If a product is relatively expensive, consumers are more likely to return it for a replacement or a repair. They’re also more likely to act if they perceive an immediate threat to their health or safety.
Vehicle owners are among the most responsive, returning 73 percent of recalled autos and 45 percent of recalled child car seats in 2009, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Of the 7.7 million vehicles recalled by Toyota in the past year, 3.7 million, or slightly less than half, have been brought in and repaired, said Brian Lyons, a company spokesman. The company expects that number to grow because replacement parts for some of the vehicles have only just been made available, he said.
Meanwhile, consumers return about 30 percent of everyday consumer goods when they are recalled, said Marc Schoem, the top recall official at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In cases involving a costly appliance, or a product where a defect could be lethal, such as scuba diving equipment, about 60 percent of consumers return the product, he said.