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How do product recalls happen?

When a consumer buys a product, he or she expects that product to be safe to use or consume. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, which may warrant a product recall. There is a process that is followed in order for a product to be recalled, although motor vehicle recalls are handled differently from other products.

When a product poses a risk or threat to public safety and health, it's generally expected that the company will voluntarily recall it. The Consumer Product Safety Act, however, also gives the health minister the power to order recalls.

Notices explaining what the problem is are issued by the government or the manufacturer. The notice will also detail the risks to consumers and what action should be taken. For example, a defective toy should be kept away from children and returned to the retailer. If there are no instructions issued in the notice, then it's best to contact the manufacturer or retailer for more information. This is how food, toys and drugs are dealt with, as well as other goods that are not motor vehicles.

The CPSA does not apply to motor vehicles and recalls cannot be mandated by Transport Canada. Automakers are left to voluntarily recall defective vehicles, and this can lead to problems. For one thing, motor vehicle recalls are not positive publicity for the company and they are expensive. In some instances, an automaker might try to keep the problem from becoming news by fixing the issue quietly. There have been lawsuits filed against automakers, though, for delaying the notification to the public about serious problems that affect a vehicle's safety.

Car owners and Transport Canada are required to be notified when a vehicle has a recall associated with it. If the vehicle has been sold, though, the new owner may not be notified. Consumers should keep an eye on recalled vehicles to see if any notices specifically affect their vehicles.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a defective vehicle or part, a lawyer can provide you with information on seeking compensation from the manufacturer and other responsible parties.

Source: Findlaw, "How does a recall work?," accessed Jan. 29, 2016

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