On July 22, 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Swedish consumer products company, IKEA, issued a joint press release to announce a “repair program,” addressing a furniture tip-over safety hazard posed by 27 million chests and dressers sold by the company. IKEA’s repair program consists of providing consumers with free wall anchoring repair kits that can be used to fasten the chests and dressers to the wall to help prevent future tip-over incidents involving these products. However, an interesting aspect of the CPSC/IKEA announcement is that the initiative was not characterized as a “recall” as is CPSC’s common practice when product repairs are needed to address safety issues related to normal product use. The CPSC/IKEA press release can be found here.
What is not immediately clear is whether CPSC’s non-recall approach for IKEA’s repair program involving implementing corrective measures signals a change in thinking by the Commission as to whether corrective actions involving consumer products be classified as “repair programs” instead of as “recalls” with more frequency in the future. In this case involving IKEA, the published press release does not mention the word “recall." Further, the release is not listed among CPSC’s list of recently announced recalls or on its public database, saferproducts.gov.
Historically, the CPSC has almost always characterized corrective actions involving consumer repairs and use of repair kits as recalls. Indeed, there have been a number of corrective actions in recent years that involved minor labeling changes to add safety instructions or to upgrade directions for use that CPSC classified as recalls. Further, CPSC’s published recall guidance has also discussed use of the word “recall” as the proper term for describing the action being taken. CPSC has often held that words like “recall” are more likely to elicit the attention of news media, consumers, and regulators alike as a serious notice about a product safety issue that needs to be addressed.
On the other hand, members of the regulated community have frequently argued that not all types of voluntary corrective actions should automatically be characterized as a “recall.” Industry groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers have argued that calling a corrective action plan a "recall" when the action needed to address a potential hazard is relatively limited, and which does not involve a refund or replacement, could be misleading to consumers.
In summary, last month’s CPSC/IKEA press release announcing IKEA’s product repair program provides recent precedent that demonstrates some measure of willingness by CPSC to characterize certain corrective actions as non-recalls. Members of industry and consumer groups alike will be closely following this development and watching for future instances of CPSC approval of corrective actions not being characterized as a recall.