Most product recalls will not go high-tech anytime soon

Many Americans live with recalled products, some potentially dangerous, in their homes, cars and offices. But most people have no idea since few Americans hear about more than a tiny fraction of the over 4,000 recalls every year, averaging about a dozen a day.

A recent article in Consumer Reports points to newer ways some companies can recall products. The methods may never help with most of what we currently own, but we all can do more stay safe from our purchases.

Tech company used update to “recall” troubled phones

A new kind of product recall made dramatic headlines back in 2014. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 devices were catching fire, resulting in injuries and property damage. The Federal Aviation Administration even banned them from flights.

Samsung eventually “pushed” an update, forcing 100,000 of the products to automatically install software without the phone owners having to do or know anything. Soon dubbed “brickware,” the software made the phones unusable, too thin for doorstops and too thick to slice cheese.

Car braking system “repaired” with software update

In 2018, Consumer Reports tested the braking distances of current cars. It found the Tesla Model 3 to have the worst results of the test group. Tesla responded by pushing a software update that lowered the braking distance to match the industry standard.

Impressed, the acting head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said he could see a day when “the crib is flashing a red light that says, ‘Do not put your precious baby in me. I’ve been recalled.’”

How to live with fewer recalled products

Experts urge consumers to:

  • Register products with their registration card or software to improve your chance of hearing about recalls.
  • If recalled, stop using a product and do not sell and throw it out, preventing others from using it.
  • Follow company instructions for repairing or returning the product.
  • Research second-hand purchases to find any recalls issued for them.

Note that six agencies of the federal government contribute to, which calls itself a “one-stop shop” for U.S. government recalls.