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What You Should Know About Silent Recalls and Your Rights

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
man driving atv

We are all aware of the multiple recalls in recent years for cars that have defective air bags, ignition systems, accelerators and other defects. But how much do you know about the “silent recalls” of defective products?

Don’t feel bad if you have never heard of a silent recall before now. Even The Safety Institute (TSI) wrote of just only recently discovering silent recalls in April 2015.

According to the TSI, these unofficial “recalls” occur when manufacturers bypass a government agency’s mandated recall process by directly offering to consumers a safety fix or a new product to address a safety problem.

Bypassing regulators is sometimes called a “customer-satisfaction campaign” or a “secret warranty.” It is a maneuver that is used frequently, according to Automotive News.

In many situations, the news of a safety defect in a car and the appropriate corrective measures is communicated through a “technical service bulletin” which is sent to car dealers, Consumer Reports states. A particular vehicle model may generate dozens of service bulletins over its lifetime. Some bulletins concern minor problems. But these bulletins can also involve serious safety issues.

The upshot of the practice of “silent recalls” is that most people never hear about potentially deadly problems with their vehicles or other consumer products.

ATV Defect Leads to Example of a Silent Recall

The poster child for silent recalls was one issued for an ATV manufactured by Hisun Motors Corp, USA.

A dealer complained to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s saferproducts.gov website that an ATV had caught fire after being used and parked, and that he and the owner believed it was caused by the heat of the unshielded exhaust system. The unshielded exhaust caused the ATV’s rear floor panels to melt, fall and ignite, the dealer alleged.

Hisun Motors responded by sending the dealer a repair kit, which included a new shielded exhaust system. The company also said it knew about the problem, and new models of the ATV would be designed differently. Additionally, the company said repair kits were being sent to other dealers. However, the company said it would not issue a recall.

What if the dealer had not complained? Would the ATV owner’s vehicle have ever been repaired at no cost for the replacement parts? What about owners of faulty products who don’t complain to the manufacturer?

Most important: What about people who are badly injured by faulty products because of defects that the manufacturer knew about but did not announce to the general public through the standard product recall process?

As TSI notes, Section 15 of the Consumer Product Safety Act requires manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of consumer products to notify the CPSC within 24 hours of learning that one of their products fails to meet safety standards or otherwise contains a defect that could create a substantial product hazard or an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.

Silent recalls, according to TSI, skirt this law. The CPSC should act to end the practice.

Keep Up with ‘Silent Recalls’ and Take Action If Harmed by a Product Defect

You can protect yourself by keeping up with technical service bulletins issued by the manufacturer of your car. You can do this by entering the vehicle’s year, make and model at SaferCar.gov. You can also check out Recalls.gov, which is a “one-stop shop” for recalls of consumer products that are overseen by six different federal agencies.

If you have been hurt by a defective product, an Albany product liability lawyer from Powers & Santola, LLP, can help you. Contact us by phone or through our online form to learn more. You may be by able to pursue a product liability lawsuit for compensation to cover your medical expenses and other losses.