James Walker: Firms should act fast over dangerous faults

There's a big difference between a product that's faulty and one that's dangerous.
There's a big difference between a product that's faulty and one that's dangerous.
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What happens when you buy something only to read in the paper that it’s potentially dangerous and needs to be recalled?

From BMW cars that suddenly stalled to Whirlpool dryers that bust into flames, product recalls are a serious business. Big businesses are often slow to respond when it becomes clear that there’s a serious fault with the goods that they sell for obvious reasons – the cost can run it to millions.

But there’s a big difference between a product that’s faulty and one that’s dangerous. When a business discovers that a product it has sold has a dangerous fault, it needs to establish whether the problem is limited to a batch or applies to the product completely. As soon as that’s clear, they have a moral responsibility to act quickly and decisively.

The business should contact every person who can be traced who bought a faulty product and give clear instructions about the risk the product poses and what they should do next, whether they will be given a replacement or refund and how the affected goods will be collected.

This can involve operations on a massive scale – and while it’s not realistic to expect this to happen overnight, speed is of the essence.

Because of this, there can often be confusion and conflicting news stories about product recalls. At Resolver, we saw a big spike in inquiries about tumble driers after reports of some bursting in to flames. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer and get them to confirm in writing what you should do next.

Depending on when an item was sold and things like your manufacturer’s guarantee or warranty, the replacement of the item should happen in a “reasonable” amount of time but in situations like this, I believe it’s vital that each and every person should be fully appraised of the risk and given the option to go to another supplier if a replacement can’t be provided on time. Businesses should commit to refunding the costs incurred in doing so. The focus also needs to be on removing a defective item as soon as possible, even if there’s no replacement – otherwise, the temptation to use it may be too high.

If you buy white goods or an expensive item, don’t forget to add it to your home insurance and register the goods too. It’s easy to forget to do this – or never get round to finishing the registration process – but it’s essential if something goes wrong with the product. There’s a “register my appliance” website set up with manufacturers, consumer groups and the government, so don’t worry if you have lost the details of yours: https://www.registermyappliance.org.uk/

In worst case scenario – and if you paid for more than £100 of the value of an item on a credit card (deposit or full amount) – then you may be able to make a claim against your card provider using the Consumer Credit Act. Regular readers will know this nifty bit of legislation means you can claim if items are “misrepresented” which arguably means breaking or busting into flames.

Technology is constantly in our lives, and anything that needs an energy supply – from white goods to vapes and mobile phones – needs to have been through endless safety checks before we plug it in. The focus of any business has to be on safety when a dangerous fault is discovered, because the faster a firm can act, the less risk we face.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk