Recall campaign

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Recalls are active measures taken by companies ( manufacturers as well as dealers ) to prevent personal injury or property damage caused by defective products or services . The legal basis for recalls in Germany is regulated by the Product Safety Act (ProdSG). There are also regulations of the European Union that the Federal Republic of Germany must comply with.

Reason and implementation

Products are usually recalled if, in the opinion of the manufacturer, defects or malfunctions of the product result in a risk that is significantly higher than the acceptable level that the consumer / user or things in their vicinity can be harmed. The risk assessment also includes a comparison of expected recall costs with possible claims for damages . Some companies pay more damage than federal / pan-European / global irreparable damage to their image of suffering. There is also liability insurance for such cases.

In order to be able to isolate defective components, their traceability in production is an important requirement. For this purpose, the documentation within the manufacturer's production process as well as the labeling of even simple components with a date code or batch numbering was expanded. In the case of consumer goods and non-technical consumer goods in particular , it is usually no longer possible to determine where a product has been sold to after it has been sold by retailers .

In order to recall defective / unsafe products, advertising campaigns in the mass media (especially in daily newspapers) are common. In most cases, the exchange is offered in the trade, sometimes also the (sometimes free) sending in of the defective goods. Publications in the media usually reach less than 20% of the affected customers. Some internet portals also publish product recalls. Automobile manufacturers are legally obliged to involve the Federal Motor Transport Authority .

It happens that the efforts of producers to retrieve defective products are undermined. There are sellers who report recalled products in their inventory, explain to the manufacturer that they have been destroyed and receive a credit note . These products then appear in internet auctions and are sold there. Such unfair methods can be reported on eBay , for example .


Numerous product recalls, especially from automobile manufacturers , pharmaceuticals , household appliances and in the food industry, bear witness to previous defective productions. The first product recalls were made by automobile manufacturers in the USA in 1903 ( Packard ), 1916 ( Buick ) or 1924 ( Maxwell ). In 1940, in its “brake decisions”, the Reichsgericht obliged the manufacturer to eliminate the dangers under tort law and demanded that a product must be brought onto the market in a roadworthy manner.

In the past, recalls usually took place without any special public relations work . In 1966 it turned out that between 1959 and 1965 a total of around 8.7 million cars were affected in the USA, and between 1966 and 1979 there were 83.7 million recalls. In October 1982 there was a US-wide recall of Tylenol supplements, of which an estimated 31 million bottles were in circulation. In 1991 there were 703 bug fixes affecting 39 million products.

The Product Safety Act (ProdSG) has been in force in Germany since April 1997, and the new version has been in force since December 2011. It aims to protect the consumer from unsafe products. According to § 2 No. 5 ProdSG, the central point of reference is the intended use for which a product is intended according to the manufacturer's specifications, or the usual use resulting from the type and design of the product. A manufacturer can then be obliged to carry out a recall.

The recall rate for motor vehicles measured on the basis of new registrations averaged 63% in Germany in 2014, with Subaru leading with a recall rate of 640%, followed by Jaguar / Landrover (261%) and Honda (242%).

Examples of product recalls

Food industry

In the food industry , food recalls are also a measure to ensure food safety . In EU law, there is an obligation to ensure the entire production and supply chain and thus to be able to fully trace it. Again, a problem arises as soon as the product leaves the retail outlet . Recalls of baby food and products containing salmonella received particular public attention. Technical problems in production are often the reason for a recall (examples: glass splinters in carrot salad, metal abrasion in marshmallows and caustic soda ). The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has been operating the portal together with the federal states since October 2011 . In Switzerland, public warnings and food recalls are published on a website of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office .

Automotive industry

Letter from Citroën Germany recalling the Jumper model because of possible problems with the spare wheel winch

Recalls of automobiles in Germany are carried out according to the rules of the ProdSG. A recall obligation therefore exists if a defect poses a sudden, unpredictable, inevitable and immediate serious danger. A recall usually concerns safety-relevant components such as steering , braking system , chassis , engine , airbags or seat belts .

In order to notify the vehicle owner, the support of the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) is usually required, as this authority knows the name and address of the current owner. The KBA publishes annual statistics of the total number of recalls carried out. 2010 was a record year with 185 product recalls, while in 2000 manufacturers only recalled 72 vehicles. The KBA statistics are usually not broken down by car brand. In 2009 the KBA responded to a small inquiry in the Bundestag with a more detailed overview of the recalls.

Some vehicle manufacturers fix defects free of charge as part of vehicle inspections in authorized workshops. This is also called “silent” recall.

As the example of Toyota shows, a recall campaign can reduce consumer confidence in the manufacturer and its vehicles and lead to a drop in sales. The Volkswagen AG uses for their product recalls euphemistic term product optimization . General Motors recalled approximately 2.6 million vehicles in the first quarter of 2014 due to defective ignition locks (can jump to the "off" position while driving) and 2.2 million vehicles for other reasons. The US federal road safety agency NHTSA is said to have remained inactive.

Examples of major product recalls in 2015
Manufacturer Affected vehicles Reason countries
Volkswagen 2,764,500 Manipulation software on diesel vehicles of
the brands VW, Audi, Seat, Škoda
Germany, Austria, China
Fiat (Chrysler) 1,700,000 Defect on the steering wheel, problems with airbags USA, Canada
Volkswagen 400,000 Problems with airbags United States
Fiat (Chrysler) 1,400,000 Software vulnerability United States
Takata 19,200,000 Problems with airbags United States
Suzuki 2,000,000 Defects in ignition locks Japan u. a.

Pet food

The animal feed scandal over feed for dogs and cats contaminated with melamine triggered the largest recall campaign in the USA in 2007.

Information and communication technology

The USB power adapter from Apple , model A1300, manufactured by Flextronics , was recalled by Apple in 2014

Dell and Apple recalled defective lithium-ion batteries from Sony in August 2006 . Also in 2007 there were several battery recalls. In addition to Toshiba , the mobile phone manufacturer Nokia was also affected . The latter recalled 46 million BL-5C batteries produced by a Japanese company between November 2005 and December 2006. Samsung recalled the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in October 2016 .


In 2007, there were several recalls of children's toys that caused a huge stir. Well-known toy manufacturers or importers and retailers such as Mattel and Toys'R'Us , due to a lack of quality assurance measures , had to struggle with the fact that items produced in the People's Republic of China did not meet European or German standards . This led to the sale of articles that had too high a lead content in the paint, which can lead to serious health problems ( lead poisoning ), especially with small children (where it can be assumed that the objects have contact with the mouth) . China came under fire as a low-wage country , but a discussion was sparked again in Germany that insufficient quality checks were being carried out. The plasticizers and the ability to swallow small parts are and were a problem in the industry.

Effects and goals

Recalls increase the reputational risk of affected companies, which can be expressed in falling demand. According to research, product recalls affecting the buying behavior of customers lasting negative. For more than 20% of automobile customers, it is obvious to refrain from buying the affected brand after a recall campaign, and almost half of customers consider their trust in the brand to be damaged. The aim of a recall is to eliminate the product defect through repair , replacement or return without replacement. In the case of motor vehicles, parts with a high risk of accidents are particularly affected ( engine , brakes , seat belts ), and food is mostly taken back due to contamination . Also patent - or competitive injury may be due to a recall.

Individual evidence

  1. Theo Bodewig, The recall of defective products , p. 16
  2. RGZ 163, 21, 26
  3. Note, 33 Stan. L. Rev. 301 (1981), p. 302 FN 3
  4. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Annual Report to Congress , 1992, p. 1
  5. Automobile production from February 10, 2015, recalls in Germany reach record levels in 2014, accessed on November 3, 2016
  6. Notes on the portal
  7. Public warnings and recalls of food in Switzerland
  8. Annual report of the KBA 2010 (PDF; 2.8 MB)
  9. Ranking of the Federal Motor Transport Authority : Opel cars were recalled particularly often - SPIEGEL ONLINE
  10. General Motors calls back 971,000 cars
  11. Ben Schwan: Overheating: Apple gives new power supplies to owners of older iPhones. heise online , June 13, 2014, accessed on May 22, 2016 .
  12. K. Weßner, Perception and Effect of Recalls for End Customers, in: Euroforum Conference “Recalls in the Automobile Industry”, Stuttgart, 23./24. May 2007

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