Tech product recalls: How good is your Product Safety Incident Plan?

18 April, 2018

Whist it may seem, thankfully, a relatively rare thing for tech products to be recalled, those incidents that have hit the headlines in recent years (remember the Samsung Note?) cause a lot of brand damage, in addition to hitting manufacturers and retailers in the pocket.  Managed well, however, the result can underline a company’s commitment to its customers and their safety and in some cases even strengthen a brand.  So it is important to get the process right.  

The Government’s new Office for Safety and Standards teamed up with the British Standards Institute to launch, last month (March 2018), a new code of practice on product recalls (“the Code”).  This may be a good starting point for your business if you haven’t got a detailed plan in place for product recalls, or if you have a plan but haven’t reviewed it in a while.

The guidance is aimed at all sizes of businesses, and deals with issues affecting manufacturers, retailers and distributors (B2B and B2C).  Issues covered are:

  • how a business can plan for a recall, including establishing mechanisms to deal with any product safety issue identified;
  • managing a possible safety related product recall or other corrective action;
  • establishing mechanisms to monitor the safety of products;
  • investigating any potential product safety issue; and
  • reviewing corrective action programmes to ensure that product safety responsibilities continue to be met

The guidance also covers what should go into a product safety incident plan (“PSIP”), focusing on:

  • understanding where all component parts come from and ensuring that traceability records up and down the supply chain are clear and up to date; and
  • having in place detailed plans to cover:
  • monitoring to enable the swift identification of product safety-related trends;
  • risk assessment and root cause analysis processes;
  • legal notification requirements
  • internal and external communications; and
  • corrective action decision-making.

It’s also key not to under-estimate the importance of co-operation with regulators.   Make sure you understand the regulatory framework surrounding your product and any recalls and what regulators’ likely approach may be if possible.  It has been suggested that the Government intends the Code to be seen as mandatory, and so will be expecting businesses to follow it, but in any case the Code may also provide useful insight into what guidance regulators will be expected to follow in this context and therefore what you can expect from your interaction with them.

Having an up to date plan in place which you can implement quickly will help you take the right action to protect consumers, and therefore you and your business.