REDDING, Calif. – It took an article in the local paper about a fire on Christmas Day, caused by a recalled propane barbeque, for me to find out about a new centralized database of recall information, Recalls.gov. This is a data base created by six government agencies. They are the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA), the National Highway Traffic Saffety Administration (NHTSA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is a great resource for consumers that have questions about products. Unfortunately, unless the consumer is interested enough to have a link to his/her own website, the recall notifications will usually not be pursued until the product has failed or injured someone.
In the local case, a couple purchased a Perfect Flame SLG series gas grill from Lowe’s in the spring of 2008. Unbeknownst to them, a recall had been issued for the Chinese-made grill several months before because the burners were deteriorating, causing irregular flames that caught the lids on fire. This is exactly what happened to the Redding couple. They are faithful customers of Lowe’s and had never notice any recalls regarding this product being posted.
The lack of knowledge of the recall is not uncommon. The new recall website will be helpful, but further measures should be taken. Since retailers almost universally rely on bar codes for selling and inventory of their products, and a tremendous amount of purchases are conducted with credit cars, why can’t retailers simply enter information about defective products in the system that reports to the credit card company. In turn the credit card company could pass the information to the purchaser. For every "hit" that the retailer or credit company would procure, the manufacturer would have to reimburse or credit them a nominal amount. This would not seem to be a technologically insurmountable task. Why isn’t it being done? After all, a dangerous product in the hands of the consumer who is not notified of the recall is just that: a dangerous product.