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UK product recalls jump by 26% to a new high

Published on 14 March 2016

The number of product recalls in the UK jumped by 26% to a new high of 310 in 2014/15 from 245 in 2013/14* according to RPC, the City law firm.

Product recalls are issued after a health and safety risk or a major design or production flaw has been discovered in a product. 

RPC says the number of vehicle recalls** rose dramatically in the last year after several high profile incidents within the motor industry. In the last year the UK has seen 39 different motor vehicle recalls, a 30% increase from the 30 recalled in 2013/14. 

The scandal over General Motors’ failure to promptly recall cars with a potentially faulty ignition switch may have prompted other manufacturers to recall more swiftly and more frequently if they identified a potential problem with their car. U.S. federal agencies claimed the fault caused up to 124 deaths. GM Motors recently agreed to pay $900m in criminal damages to settle the case and eventually recalled 800,000 cars.

Pressure on the motor industry has been further raised by the investigation into Volkswagen over emissions testing, which began in 2014. French carmaker Renault recently recalled 15,000 cars after questions were raised over emissions testing of its cars.

Gavin Reese, Partner at RPC, comments: “Sometimes it can take a huge scandal to break for an industry to sit up, take notice and ensure their products are watertight.”

“Certainly the automotive industry is now very sensitive to accusations of being slow to recall faulty or non-compliant products.”

“Car manufacturers are looking for irregularities more closely, as well as facing increased pressure from regulators and, therefore, it’s likely that 2016 will also see a high level of vehicle recalls.”

Number of food recalls rises by 50%

RPC points out that the number of recalls relating to food and drink has also significantly increased, by 50% this year from 56 to 84. 

After the horsemeat scandal in 2013, the National Food Crime Unit was established in 2014 which works to uncover incidents of food fraud in the UK. RPC says that the creation of this unit as well as the increasing importance being placed by supermarkets on their supply chains may have led to the rise in food product recalls in the last year. 

Gavin Reese adds: “The horsemeat scandal set off reverberations across the food industry and now a couple of years on tighter measures and an increased scrutiny have clearly made a big difference.”

RPC says that when recall figures were first collected by RPC ten years ago there was less than half the amount of product recalls with just 149 products recalled in 2004/5.

*RPC’s annual research into product recalls covers the year from 1 November 2014 to 31 October 2015. RPC’s product recall research is based on information from the Trading Standards Institute, the Food Standards Agency, RAPEX and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

** Categories of consumer goods are from RAPEX data only