Unsafe and non-compliant products can be subject to recalls. This essentially means that you as a seller must arrange the return, replacement, and possible refund of the affected product. Product recalls are incredibly expensive and can spell disaster for smaller businesses.
Further, products can be subject to a recall for a variety of reasons, including chemical content, design safety flaws, incorrect labeling, and documentation.
In this guide, we help importers and manufacturers better understand how the recall process works in the EU. We also cover common safety hazards that can lead to a recall, the EU RAPEX system, and Amazon’s policy on product recalls.
What is a product recall?
A “product recall’ is the process of retrieving unsafe goods from the market, which might cause serious and even life-threatening injuries to consumers. For example, strangulation risks in a children’s product.
Recalls might happen also for different reasons, for example in the case of non-compliance with labeling, documentation, testing, or other requirements. Importers and manufacturers are responsible for the safety of the products that they place in the market, including recalls when the authorities deem them necessary.
The European Commission provides a guide to corrective actions and recalls on its website. The guide serves as general advice on reducing the risks caused by consumer products.
Also, the European Commission established a system called “Safety Gate: the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products”, also known as RAPEX, which allows the authorities of the different EU countries to exchange information to prevent or restrict the selling of dangerous products.
You can learn more about the RAPEX on the official EU website
Why are products subject recalls?
Some of the most common causes for product recalls include:
a. The market surveillance authorities issue a request for a forced recall to the importer or manufacturer, for instance after a consumer gets injured using the product, or because the product is not compliant
b. The importer or manufacturer decides to recall its own products, for example, because it realizes that they are dangerous or defective
Below, we list the most common risks that might lead to product recalls, including examples of recalled products taken from the RAPEX.
Health Risks (Children’s Products)
Strangulation risks are usually affecting children’s products. For example, long drawstrings or long cords pose dangers to children when in use.
Another common cause of recall concerns kids’ beds, for instance in the case of a bunk bed with safety barriers that are not high enough. In this case, the kid could fall down from the top bed and get stuck among the fences of the bed, which might cause strangulation.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of strangulation:
- Children’s sweatshirts
- Children’s bikinis
- Children’s toys
- Children’s bunk beds
- Children’s bedside sleepers
Suffocation risks can often occur when using children’s toys and textile products. They can also be related to the product packaging. For example, children may suffocate after covering their face with plastic wrap for a relatively long amount of time.
Here some examples of product that were recalled due to the risk of suffocation:
- Children’s sleep bags
- Children’s costumes
- Children products’ plastic packaging
- Children’s toy plastic handles
Entrapment risks can occur when a child gets its body parts stuck within or inside the product. For example, children can get their heads stuck between the fence of the bed.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of entrapment:
- Children’s beds
- Children’s swing chairs
- Children’s walkers
- Children’s scooters
Choking hazards are usually linked to small products or products with small parts, such as the eyes of a doll, breakable handles, beads, or other parts that can easily come off in small pieces. Children can put the small parts in their mouth and choke as result.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of choking:
- Children’s dolls
- Children’s clothing
- Children’s puzzles
- Children’s jewelry
Health Risks (General Products)
Electric Shock Risks
Electric shock accidents can happen when the earthing protection is inadequate, the product insulation is inappropriate, or there are other problems in the safety design of the product. For example, the users could touch the accessible live parts and receive an electric shock.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of electric shock:
- Electric ovens
- Extension leads
- AC adapters
Asphyxiation risks usually relate to defective smoke alarms or sensors. For example, a device can pose asphyxiation risks when it is not sensitive enough to detect the smoke.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of asphyxiation:
- Gas detectors
- Gas alarms
Non-compliant water-sport products can pose drowning risks to users. For example, a life jacket can lose its floating ability due to foreseeable damages.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of drowning:
- Floating seats
- Rescue ropes
Sharp edges can pose cut risks to users. Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to the risk of cuts:
- Plastic chairs
- Plastic musical instruments
Damage to Hearing or Sight Risks
High-level sound or light emission can pose hearing and sight damage to the users. For example, a children’s toy that produces over 88 dB of sound level, or strong laser beams when in contact with users’ eyes.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to hearing or sight risks:
- Laser beams
- Children educational toys
Burn risks are usually associated with electrical products. For example, overheated batteries during use can cause burns.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to risk of burn:
- Balance wheels
- Electric scooters
- Camping lights
Excessive amounts of heavy metals or other dangerous chemicals in a product can pose chemical risks to the user. For example, long exposure to phthalate can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.
Here are some examples of restricted heavy metal and dangerous chemical examples:
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to chemical risks:
- Baby’s soothers
- Finger paints
Product recalls can relate to the potential fire risks of a product, for example, short circuits, overheat, or flammable material. Below we provide some product categories that might cause fire hazard:
- Textile products (e.g t-shirt, hoodies)
- Electrical products (e.g cell phone, hairdryers)
- Children’s products (e.g stuffed toy, stationery)
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to fire risks:
- Dual-port chargers
- Smart balance wheels
- Hair clippers
Electromagnetic Disturbance Risks
The authorities might also recall products due to electromagnetic compatibility reasons. This is due to the fact that these products might cause a high-intensity electromagnetic field that affects nearby devices.
Here some examples of products that were recently recalled due to electromagnetic disturbance risks:
- LED lightings
- AC adapters
Can a business continue selling products after being subject to a recall?
According to the General Product Safety Directive, importers and manufacturers are liable for defective or dangerous products and are only allowed to place safe products in the market.
Thus, if the authorities deem a product to be subjected to a recall because of safety or other non-compliance reasons, such a product should be retrieved from the market. If a product causes harm to customers, such as death or personal injury, importers or manufacturers might incur heavy fines and even prison.
What is the RAPEX?
The basis for the RAPEX is the General Product Safety Directive, which aims at ensuring that only safe products are placed on the market.
The RAPEX is a warning system for unsafe consumer products. It focuses on establishing a free exchange of non-compliance and infringement information among authorities, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers, across the EU.
The RAPEX’s database provides access to the following information, for each alert that it is issued:
- Product category
- Product description
- Risk type
- Notifying country
- Alert number
What is the RASFF?
Similar to the RAPEX, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) focuses on unsafe food products in the EU market. The RASFF enables information exchange on food safety between authorities, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers.
It functions as an online database that gives access to information such as below:
- Product category
- Type of food
- Risk description
- Decision (e.g serious, undecided, or not serious)
Examples of EU product recalls
The RAPEX provides a list of product recall reports. Users can navigate the system and search for specific reports filtering by product category, risk type, and other criteria. Here we list recall examples based on the product category.
Children’s products are often subject to stricter safety requirements, as children are among the most vulnerable consumers. Here are some examples of recalled children’s products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Toy drums – Choking hazard
- Balloons – Chemical exposure hazard
- Bedside sleeper – Mechanical injuries hazard
- Baby nest – Strangulation hazard
- Children’s cot – Entrapment hazard
- Soother holder – Choking hazard
- Soft toy – Choking hazard
Apparel & Textiles
Textile products are often recalled due to strangulation and chemical risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Leather jacket – contains excessive amounts of chromium
- Hooded sweatshirt – Strangulation hazard
- Children’s jacket – Strangulation hazard
- Blouse – Strangulation hazard
- Motorcycle gloves – contains excessive amounts of chromium
Electronic and Electrical Products
Electronic and electrical products are often recalled due to electric shock and burn risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Electric oven – Electric shock hazard
- Power bank – Electric shock hazard
- AC adapter – Electric shock hazard
- Smart kettle – Electric shock and burn hazard
- Hairdryer – Burn hazard
- Hair curler – Burn hazard
Furniture products are often recalled due to entrapment, injuries, and strangulation risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Metal chair – Break injury hazard
- Bunk beds – Strangulation and entrapment hazard
- Office chair – Falling injury hazard
- Garden table – crack injury hazard
- Round table – Break injury hazard
Jewelry & Accessories
Jewelry & accessories products are often recalled due to chemical risks. Here are some recalled product and their associated risk:
- Ring – contains excessive amounts of cadmium
- Bracelet – contains excessive amounts of cadmium and lead
- Necklace with pendant – contains excessive amounts of cadmium
- Earrings – contains excessive amounts of nickel
- Leather bracelet – contains excessive amounts of cadmium
Sport & Gym Equipment
Sport & gym equipment products are often recalled due to injury and chemical risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Gymnastic ball – contains excessive amounts of DIBP
- Climb tower – falling injury hazard
- Elastic training band – detachment injury hazard
- Training bar – contains banned material SCCPs
Cosmetics products are often recalled due to chemical risk. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Wet Wipes – contains a mixture of MCI
- Skin-lightening cream- contains mercury
- Body Cream – contains an unsafe amount of kojic acid
- Perfume – contains benzyl salicylate
- Care oil – contains octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4)
Personal Protective Equipment
PPE products are often recalled due to health and performance risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Particle filter mask – Carry CE marking but has not been tested
- KN 95 mask – has not been certified by a relevant European body
- FFP2 mask – insufficient filter retention
- Warning vest – inadequate luminance performance
- Motorcycle helmet – inadequate impact absorption
- Protective clothing – permeable to sprayed liquids
Construction products are often recalled due to chemical and performance risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Black rubber mat for lawns – contains excessive amounts of PAHs
- Fall protection plate – contains excessive amounts of PAHs
- Sealing slurry – contains chromium VI
- CO sensor – does not give an alarm promptly
- Window hinges – detachment hazard
Machinery products are often recalled due to injury and electric shock risks. Here are some examples of recalled products, and the reason for which they were recalled:
- Combined mitre and bench saw – blade guard does not properly lock
- Garage door opener – electric shock hazard
- Grain drier – fatal injury hazard
- Electric knapsack sprayer – short-circuit and electric shock hazard
- Electric impact drill – electric shock hazard
What is Amazon’s policy concerning recalled products?
Amazon has a strict policy on selling products that are recalled by the authorities. More specifically, Amazon forbids sellers to sell recalled products and reserves the right to block their listing and prevent them from selling on Amazon.
Amazon recommends using the RAPEX system to check if your products are on the alert list. If the product is on the list, you must take appropriate actions to ensure product safety, for example, unlist your product on Amazon.
You can find more information about Amazon’s policy on recalled products on their website.
What can I do to avoid a recall?
Ensure product compliance is the most important step to take in order to avoid recalls. Therefore, importers and manufacturers should conduct lab testing to relevant standards or regulations before placing them in the market and take other necessary steps.
Product compliance also includes correct labeling, warning statements, and documentation. Thus, government authorities can still recall your product due to insufficient documentation (e.g lack of DoC or test reports), and quality issues (e.g defective products that pose risks).
Not only non-compliant products might lead to product recalls. The EU authorities sometimes recall products if they discover new risks or other potential risks that are not covered by the current requirements. However, following the existing compliance requirements can significantly reduce the risk of a recall.
How can I report a dangerous product?
Under the GPSD, it’s the importers’ or manufacturers’ responsibility to report dangerous products. To report a dangerous product, you should inform the relevant authorities and submit a notification using the Business Gateway.
Firstly, you need to create an account on the Business Gateway and submit a RAPEX notification on the platform. After receiving the confirmation via the platform, the national authorities will process your notification and instruct you for the next step (e.g recall action notice).
Quote from Article 5.3, General Product Safety Directive:
“Where producers and distributors know or ought to know, on the basis of the information in their possession and as professionals, that a product that they have placed on the market poses risks to the consumer that are incompatible with the general safety requirement, they shall immediately inform the competent authorities of the Member States thereof under the conditions laid down in Annex I, giving details, in particular, of action taken to prevent risk to the consumer.”