Will you need to do a recall?

I’ll bet most of you think you’ll never need to worry about a recall. Ten bucks says 95% of you won’t even read this but I can only hope I will never have to say “I told you so”. Hopefully most of you will never need to worry about it but it’s best to be prepared. This entry applies to anyone who makes or sells products in California and children’s product producers nationwide.

Here’s the context (if you’re not making kid’s products, don’t leave yet). This morning I was visiting a children’s retail site and noticed coats with drawstrings for sale. Shocking, no? If you don’t know why ties and drawstrings are a huge problem, catch up now. Since I am friendly with the proprietor, I asked her about it and mentioned the problem. She was horrified to say the least and immediately pulled those items from stock. I was surprised she didn’t know so I asked her if the manufacturer had advised her. At first she said no but then after poking around a bit, she found an email advising her of the problem. She also said the email did not emphasize the liability, that these products were illegal.

Another scenario affecting recalls that I’ve been highly reluctant to discuss that affects everyone who sells products in California, is Proposition 65. Prop 65 is like CPSIA on steroids and affects all consumer products, not just kid’s stuff. Since I’m still in denial and pretending it’s not happening, I’ll summarize it by saying that Prop 65 allows anyone, yes anyone, to sue you for allegedly “dangerous” products -but there’s no legislation; liability is determined through litigation. But wait, there’s more! The party who sues you is entitled to proceeds of the damages (25%) so there is a financial incentive for parties to file suit as a fund raising activity. For example, the Center for Environmental Health (the kind of activist group most of us would normally support) has filed suit against 50 or so retailers and manufacturers, everybody from Sears to Victoria’s Secret. In short, if you are in a position to become fund raising fodder for a group who can lobby an attorney to take the case on contingency, you also need to worry about the potential of a recall.

So, the question becomes, if you’re a manufacturer, what lengths do you go to withdraw a product from the marketplace? In first scenario I outlined above, an email is ineffective because the retailer didn’t notice it. Does an email get you off the hook? No, it doesn’t. You are completely liable. The law requires these coats to have been recalled. What was appropriate was a voluntary recall meaning the manufacturer notifies the CPSC that they have non-compliant products in consumer’s hands. A voluntary recall is much much better than a recall where they go after you. And drawstring recalls are at an all time high, even tiny lots of 50 pieces. I can’t advise you to skip the recall if you’re really small and have the means to definitively reclaim every single non-conforming item because doing so is illegal.

Previously I’d written here and here how retailers can get their suppliers to provide the documentation needed to legally sell children’s products but the situation is different in this case because it’s a matter of getting your buyers to comply to limit your and their liability. It is difficult to stress its importance and retain brand value, you don’t want to damage your reputation and future sales. I know several of our members have had to weather recalls, it’s not fun and it’s expensive.

In summary, the potential of a recall is yet another worry for you. The best way to limit liability and aid in the removal of defective items from the marketplace is through stringent tracking systems. You must keep accurate records. Know who bought what and how many of them for at least three years. Do most of you keep these kinds of records? If not, you should start. Here’s the bulleted list:

  • Keep up to date on legal matters that affect you.
  • Know the given laws and regulations in your state.
  • Read the recall manual so you are familiar with the mechanisms by which you should plan your tracking systems.

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6 comments

  1. Mark C. says:

    I have never and will never get into manufacturing kids clothes. However, California is so saturated with rules and regulations that it can really make a person consider moving in order to avoid a potential head and wallet ache! Gee wiz!!!

  2. Camille says:

    It’s a funny (strange) thing that this ruling or concern hadn’t been heeded or more known. In the mid ’80’s I worked as a designer for a liscensor of many brands, in particular Nautica girls and boys, and Everlast mens and boys, and B.U.M. Equipment girls and boys… I distinctly remember a notice going around at that time that was to take affect immediately and on all brands that manufactured apparel for children, that stated drawstrings were not to be applied to hoods or waistbands, ankles and wrists, because of the risks. The risks outlined were basically ones that would/could cause hanging or dragging etc. Before being indicated it wasn’t thought of, but on with little further thought, one can imagine situations implied causing injury as in riding on slides, running, etc.

    It’s just strange to me, where or when did this precaution fall away from common habit, in manufacturing/ design/ production. In those days our production head would assess any design for all the design elements that were potential problems of one kind or another.

    Camille

  3. Becky says:

    The company I just left to start my new adventure was a children’s retail company. We had a huge recall that we self imposed as a company to work toward the new lead level requirements coming up in Feb. They are a nationwide corporation as well as in Canada and Puerto Rico, so the number of stores is quite large. The number of product we pulled was quite extensive. And the item in question was a white shirt button. Same looking buttons as on all our other shirts, but these must have come from a different supplier. Of course being a large corporation they have their own testing lab, that is quite impressive actually. They test everything from buttons to fabric content to dye stability. So, they were able to catch this before the regulators did. But, the point is, that recalls can be devastating even to a large company. It could be death to a small manufacturer. Are the rulings over the top, perhaps. But, they are still rulings and will need to be followed. It has become so very important that anyone wishing to get into the children’s clothing line, or anything pertaining to children for that matter, be sure and ready to do some hard work and be well funded to do things right. It has given me much to think about and for now I have decided to follow a different direction until I am ready to tackle the CPSC requirements. I will say though that it has not discouraged me from my pursuing my creative side, just a different path. In fact this one may turn out better. I am just glad that I happened upon this site at the very beginning, before I invested time into something I could not follow through with. I thank you Kathleen for that.

  4. I am grateful everyday that we became a part of Fashion Incubator. We make a cuddle gown for babies, and while I stress that it is not intended for sleepwear, it closes at the bottom with a drawstring ribbon. I knew that kids clothes could not have a drawstring in a hood, around the neck or waist, but I had not realized that it applied to the hem also. I secure the ribbon to where it will not pull out, but I’m beginning to wonder if potential problems make it worth it. I know that I could change to elastic with a bow tacked on the hem, but that removes one of the selling points of the gown in that it opens up for easy changing. Children’s apparel is hard to make because I worry about every little thing that goes into making it. Thanks Kathleen because I would never want to produce something that might cause harm.

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