The goal of any product recall is to retrieve, repair, or replace those products already in consumers’ hands as well as those in the distribution chain. Maintaining accurate records about the design, production, distribution, and marketing of each product for the duration of its expected life is essential for a firm to conduct an effective, economical product recall. Generally, the following records are key both to identifying noncomplying products and conducting recalls:
Records of complaints, warranty returns, insurance claims, and lawsuits. These types of information often highlight or provide early notice of safety problems that may become widespread in the future.
Production records. Accurate data should be kept on all production runs -- the lot numbers and product codes associated with each run, the volume of units manufactured, component parts or substitutes use, and other pertinent information which will help the firm identify defective products or components quickly.
Distribution records. Data should be maintained as to the location of each product by product line, production run, quantity shipped or sold, dates of delivery, and destinations.
Quality control records. Documenting the results of quality control testing and evaluation associated with each production run often helps companies identify possible flaws in the design or production of the product. It also aids the firm in charting and sometimes limiting the scope of a corrective action plan.
Product registration cards. Product registration cards for purchasers of products to fill out and return can help to identify owners of recalled products. The easier it is for consumers to fill out and return these cards, the greater the likelihood the cards will be returned to the manufacturer. For example, some firms provide pre-addressed, postage-paid registration cards that already have product identification information, e.g., model number, style number, special features, printed on the card. Providing an incentive can also increase the return rate. Incentives can be coupons towards the purchase of other products sold by the firm, free accessory products, or entry in a periodic drawing for a product give away. The information from the cards then needs to be maintained in a readily retrievable database for use if recall becomes necessary.
Membership/Bonus/Loyalty cards. Many stores, whether membership or available to all consumers, offer bonus or loyalty value cards which may be useful in identifying purchasers of recalled products. Availability and storage of these records should be considered in the event of a recall.
Credit card purchases. An increasing number of firms are utilizing records from credit card purchases of recalled products as a way of identifying and notifying owners of recalled products. Through the cooperation of issuing banks or through the firms own branded credit cards, many owners of recalled products have been directly notified of the recall, often avoiding other more traditional means of generic notification.