Product recalls in Nigeria
A recall is an action taken by a government regulating agency like the Consumer Protection Council, (CPC) to protect the public from products such as food, medicines, cosmetics, toys, vehicles over health or safety concerns. Some recalls lead to the banning of these items while others may involve repair or replacement of the item, under the CPC Act all consumer products must be safe and meet consumer guarantees.
Companies are mandated to ensure that all products or product related services comply with relevant mandatory standards before they are offered for sale. Consumers have the right to a refund if a product is unsafe. Where this right is not complied with the customer has a right to take action against the company.
The seller also has the right against the manufacturer of the product if it is locally sourced or if the product is imported, to seek redress from the importer. Consumers can also seek compensation for damages and loss caused by a safety defect in the product.
Retailers have a responsibility to report to the relevant government agency if it is reported that a product caused serious injury or death, all participants in the supply chain of consumer goods are required to comply with the mandatory reporting. These include retailers, dealers, wholesale suppliers, distributors, importers, and manufacturers. Poor supply and distribution chains have created clogs in the ability of regulators to manage products safely in the country.
The number of products recalled globally is increasing and this is as a result of increasing customer awareness, enhanced testing capabilities, complex supply chains, and stricter safety standards. In Europe, the number of actions taken against defective products and reported by member states to the regulatory agency (RAPEX) has risen steadily over the years. Consumer goods with the greatest number of notifications after clothing, textile and fashion items were toys, motor vehicles, electrical appliances, child care equipment and kid’s articles.
Consumers in the United States of America were faced with 2,363 recalls last year, covering products such as medical devices, food consumer products and pharmaceuticals, according to the food and drug administration (FDA).
Consumers in Nigeria are often shortchanged and left stranded when recalls are done globally for consumer products that are is widely used in this country.
In the area of sales of vehicles, as in the case of the recall of vehicles following faulty Takata airbags installed in some brands, Nigerian auto dealers were not proactive about the problem. It took the intervention of the CPC which mandated them to publish a list of vehicles that were affected. Even then, the responses in replacing faulty airbags in Toyota vehicles in Nigeria were very slow.
A New York Times report in September, last year, found no fewer than 139 reported injuries across all automakers, and at least two deaths and 30 injuries in Honda Vehicles. Chrysler, Ford and Toyota have expanded their recalls of vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. This has resulted in the President losing his job; several other executives in the company also had to go.
More often than not when automakers announce flaws in their vehicles, and recalls are effected, the Nigerian consumer does not often benefit from the exercise as a result of insensitivity or perhaps the incompetence and negligence of some of the auto dealers in the country, in ensuring that their customers benefit from the recalls.
Dealers owe their customers the responsibility of notifying them promptly and addressing their concerns. Owners of vehicles that are affected by the recall should be reached and asked to turn in their vehicles for replacement, and alternative transportation made available for them free of charge until their vehicles are repaired.
Customers also need to be proactive, to find out if their vehicles are affected; they need to go to the manufacturer’s website or to safercar.gov, type in their vehicle identification number (VIN), and they will be able to confirm the status of their vehicle.
It doesn’t matter if the vehicle was bought as a secondhand one, if it is affected; the vehicle owner becomes aware of the state of his vehicle. As a consumer it is critical that you don’t ignore a recall notice. If you notice that something is wrong with your vehicle that could put you or someone else in danger. It is important to report it to the customer service department of the car dealer or manufacturer’s outlet.
There is a need for increased accountability on the part of the auto makers. Regulators also need to step up enforcement.
U.S. chocolate maker, Mars, has recalled its chocolate bars in 55 countries, mainly in Europe, after bits of plastic were found in a Snicker’s bar in Germany. All the recalled products which include Mars, Celebrations, Snickers and Milky Way bars were manufactured in a Dutch factory in Veghel.
This was prompted by a complaint from a lady who found red plastic in a Snicker’s bar and returned it to the company, and because the company cannot guarantee there is no plastic in the other products it is recalling all its products manufactured within the period
Baby products to avoid
Most people assume that baby products in the market are safe and meet all safety requirements. A num of them have been linked to injuries and even death in some cases. It is important to make enquires about the safety of products before purchasing them.
Dropside cribs: these are baby beds that have an adjustable moveable side which drops when the babies are picked up; these have been associated with 32 deaths since 2000. It is advisable to choose cribs with fixed sides. Indeed, these dropside cribs have been banned in the USA
Bampers: these are designed to provide cushion for babies so they don’t hit their heads on the crib slats. They have been found to be suffocation hazards, and may be linked to SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. The American Academy of Paedritrics have recommended that parents avoid using bumpers as some babies have died from suffocation or strangulation
Blankets and pillows: Babies can get tangled in blankets and suffocated or be smothered by a pillow, experts recommend avoiding them by keeping babies warmly dressed in pyjamas or onesies.
Changing tables with fewer than 4 sides: A child could roll and fall to the floor, it is important to use tables with 4 sides to prevent the babies from falling.
Sling carriers: There have been dozens of injuries associated with these carriers including head injuries, contusions, abrasions and also suffocation. It is preferable to use strollers or car seats
Walkers: Babies can scoot into dangerous corners or fall down stairs injuries and deaths have been reported. They are currently prohibited in Canada. It is preferable to use stationary activity centers.
There is a need for increased oversight by all government regulatory agencies and the creation of a single platform for recalls by all them collaborating. Establishment of hot lines and internet sites is imperative to enable consumers report product defects.
Sweeping reforms need to be put in place to curtail the activities of importers who import substandard goods into the country. Inspectors should be able to inspect foreign facilities and imports made to ensure that their suppliers adhere to the highest standards of preventive controls and monitoring of shipments.
Companies also need to put in place better quality control mechanisms to identify and trace defective products and to recall them promptly, as a slow response could damage their reputation.
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