When should an unsafe product be recalled from the market?
An unsafe product is defined in the Polish Civil Code. Administrative regulations, however, such as the Act on General Safety of Products, specify the duties of producers and distributors when it comes to assuring product safety.
Any movable may be found to be an unsafe product, whether it be clothing, or a home appliance, machinery, or even a motor vehicle. An unsafe product is one that does not provide the safety that may be expected in light of the normal use of the product. In order to assure product safety, producers should see to it that the construction, composition, production methods and labelling comply with applicable regulations. Product safety is also promoted through the proper presentation of the product: correct labelling, responsible advertising, and an appropriate, understandable description of the properties of the product. Nonetheless, despite the best efforts of the producer, a given product may turn out to be hazardous, for example because of a manufacturing defect or lack of proper warnings concerning use of the product.
If a producer identifies a risk in its product, for example based on information from consumers, it is required to make its own assessment of the extent of the risk and to take specific measures to eliminate the danger. The choice of actions to be taken depends on the nature and degree of the danger. In some cases it is sufficient to place an additional warning on the packaging, while in other cases it may be necessary to remove the product from distribution, or even recall products that are already in the hands of consumers. Sometimes it is necessary to publish information about the dangers of a product. The producer will also need to file a notification concerning the product with RAPEX, the EU’s database for consumer product safety alerts, as well as notify the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection of remedial measures taken.
If an unsafe product is identified during the course of a trade inspection, the inspectors will order remediation measures. In that case the producer will have limited input in defining the steps to be taken, and will also have to pay administrative fines for negligence.
This article was also published on 12 August 2010 in the “Akademia Prawa Gospodarczego” section of Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.