By Lauren Bennett
The past few years have been filled with dangerously defective products – overheating phone batteries, faulty car airbags, and exploding e-cigarettes are just a few of the most notable cases. Although liability for these cases typically falls on the manufacturer, what happens to the businesses that sold the product? Whether intentional or not, there are a few things that business owners should do to protect themselves if they discover one of their products is defective.
Put out a notice the product is dangerous
As soon as you receive notice that the product is defective, no matter how severe, you should quickly inform customers of the danger. Whether this be through social media channels, email alerts, or on your company website (or all three) – informing customers is the right thing to do, both for legal reasons and to keep a positive reputation.
You must also file a report with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) within 24 hours of obtaining the information. Not only is this doing your due diligence – it’s the law. Once a report is submitted, then the CPSC can begin an investigation into whether or not the product needs to be recalled and other steps that need to be taken.
Allow the customer to return the item – no questions asked
No matter what – you should allow the customer to return the faulty product for a refund or store credit. This Is not only a great chance to promote a positive customer experience, it can also help protect your business legally in the future.
If you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, they don’t care whether it’s your fault or the manufacturers’ – they care that the product they purchased is dangerous and they more than likely want their money back. And, can you blame them? The best move, from a public relations standpoint, is to take the product back no-questions-asked and work directly with the manufacturer or government oversight committee on regaining losses and handling legal issues.
Contact the manufacturer
This is where a number of factors come into play. Most business owners try to be cognizant of where their products come from; but sometimes these products come from negligent overseas manufacturers. According to Greg Bentley, a products liability attorney and the leading expert on e-cigarette explosions, manufacturers overseas don’t have the same standards as American manufacturers. When something goes wrong with one of their products, it can be extremely hard, if not impossible, to hold them liable for their negligence. This emphasizes the importance of you as a business owner ensuring the products you sell are held to the highest possible standards.
Whether your manufacturer is overseas or domestic, responsible or not – you should absolutely inform them of the product defect or danger. More than likely, they already know of the issue, but it’s always best to inform them to keep your business safe.
Hire an attorney
If the dangerous product you sold harmed someone or worse – you absolutely need to hire an attorney. Product liability attorneys can help defend you against injured customers and against negligent manufacturers. This is not to say that you don’t want the injured customers to get the compensation they need; but, you do want to make sure that the entity responsible for the injury is held liable. If you did your due diligence when purchasing the product from the manufacturer – then a defense for you should be easy.
When purchasing products from outside manufacturers, it’s always best to do your homework and ensure that the company is responsible for the products they distribute. Getting caught up in a products liability lawsuit is never a business owners’ dream but accidents happen, so having a legit manufacturer that knows the protocol when consumers are injured is the safest route for all parties involved.
Lauren Bennett is a writer out of San Diego, CA working on education business owners about various legal matters and ways to enhance profits through risk-management. Follow her on Twitter @laur_ben.