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phil&teds – product recalls are good

MEDIA RELEASE 22 October 2008

phil&teds – product recalls are good

phil&teds have taken on board the message from NZ Consumer Affairs that, “A high profile, open and successful recall will give a strong positive message to your customers. Customers will see that your company is working in their best interests.”

In essence product recalls are good for product safety and, at phil&teds, safety comes first. phil&teds operates in 45 countries worldwide and seeks to meet product standards in every one of them. Surprisingly, a lot of juvenile brands choose not to comply with safety standards, and some countries use them as a trade barrier.

Often, such standards are not compulsory in all countries, so aren’t universally upheld by a lot of juvenile brands. phil&teds follows a more rigorous product assurance policy of a) compliance testing to local standard, b) usability testing (i.e. exceeding standards requirements, while attempting to assess misuse/abuse, etc), c) follow-up field assessments, and d) where necessary, product upgrade/recalls.

“It’s pretty much impossible to conceive of every real life situation”, said Denis Witt, Quality Leader for phil&teds, “but we attempt to recreate as many situations as possible in testing, and apply that learning to improve our products”. Perhaps the most important of these product assurance policies is the recall process – it’s most important to get right the product already in consumers’ hands. A company that conducts recalls is one that is focused on product safety. Recalls should be heralded as essential for driving better safety and used to good effect.

“phil&teds regularly uses the recall to repair procedure to send product upgrades to consumers. We have done this voluntarily 3 times before, always to improve product safety,” says Denis Witt.

According to the Product Recall Research Group “There are typically many recalls of children's products each year … One reason for the large number of children's product recalls is that people are protective of children, and are careful to check products.”

“Motor vehicles, like children's products, are frequently recalled. In fact, these are the second and third-most frequently occurring types of recalls, after perishables.” says the Product Recall Research Group. Large companies such as Ford, Toyota, General Motors have all been involved in significant product recalls. Some other major brands with product recalls outside of the car industry include Sony, Nestle, IBM, Dell, Toshiba. All companies interested in consumer safety are inclined to product recalls.

In 2007, the CPSC, who are responsible for 15,000 types of consumer products in the USA, completed 472 cooperative recalls (100 percent voluntary) involving nearly 110 million consumer product units. In the USA, CPSC is required to approve a recall, even when a company initiates one.

Recalls take many different forms, most of which don’t actually involve physically recalling. For example sending upgrade kits is described as a “recall to repair” in the USA. While the CPSC must approve this in the USA, such actions are completed voluntarily elsewhere in the world. Government mandated recalls are rare; company initiated recalls are common. Government mandated recalls generally occur when goods are likely to cause serious injury and the supplier has refused to take satisfactory action. Such action is rare. To decide if a recall is necessary a company will typically:- gather all available information on the alleged defect. Arrange testing, talk to buyers/customers who have complained etc identify the number of goods affected (models, batches) locate the goods - where they have been distributed (warehouses, retailers, customers) assess the degree of danger – likelihood of injury and consequences consult others who may have received complaints or who can offer advice on the need for a action. Frustratingly, often companies acting responsibly aren’t recognised for doing so, as their product is vilified for being subject to a recall. Companies that recall to advance the cause of safety should be celebrated. phil&teds are very proud that three years ago they completed a product recall, worldwide, to replace a plastic handle hinge on their twin buggy. “Our actions were so efficient and well received that we avoided the need to physically recall any product. All users were, instead, sent an upgrade kit.” “Our decision was partly driven by a competitor having breakages of it’s newly, replaced parts – we wanted to avoid guilt by association. Because product safety is the top priority we improved this handle on our own initiative – without being prompted by an accident,” says Campbell Gower. “As soon as we heard about the possibility of a breakage (actually during freight to customer in the USA) we acted: we had a new part designed, tested, made and into market within 6 weeks of the initial decision to recall.”

These things can be very damaging to sales if managed badly. “But, because we behaved responsibly, we got so much kudos for acting, and acting promptly, that it made us stronger as a company and a brand – with the reward of continued customer loyalty and demand; full channel support, and, a safer better product.” “Everyone benefits by recognising the importance of product recalls and not letting companies put their head in the sand,” says Campbell Gower.


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