Voluntary Recall vs. Mandatory Recall

Voluntary Recall vs. Mandatory Recall

If you follow the news, you have likely heard the term recall thrown around several times in the just the last few months. This complex process contains several layers that determine the severity of the recall and how it is rolled out. A recall protects the public from products that may cause injuries or illnesses. However, there are two types of recalls: a voluntary recall and a mandatory recall. Whether a recall is voluntary or mandatory depends on who issues the recall and why. 

Breaking Down Recalls

A recall refers to a company or government organization’s removal or correction of a marketed product that may harm the public. Reasons that a firm or agency may incite a recall include incorrect labeling, faulty packaging, malfunctioning devices, or hazardous side effects. Agencies such as the Federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) track and accumulate reports to monitor these problems. Furthermore, manufacturers are also responsible for keeping a watchful eye on their goods and reporting to certain agencies.

In instances where a product presents a risk of injury or death to the public, a recall is in order. 

Involvement in the Recall Process 

In the United States, multiple agencies oversee products, but all have different jurisdictions. For example, the FDA regulates drugs, medical devices, food, cosmetics, and tobacco products. Meanwhile, the CPSC is responsible for consumer products like toys, appliances, electronics, and more. Also, we have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which covers cars, trucks, and motorcycles. 

Whether it be a mandatory or voluntary recall, these agencies usually play a role in the process depending on the specific recalled item. Agencies will work in conjunction with the manufacturer whose product is in question, whether it be a voluntary or mandatory order. A company or firm will notify the public about the recall and any developments through its platforms. Additionally, when a manufacturer issues a recall, the FDA, CPSC, and NHTSA post advisories. Generally, these advisories identify:

  • The manufacturer
  • The recalled item
  • The reason for the recall
  • The number of injuries or deaths associated with the recalled product
  • How many units were affected by the recall
  • Steps consumers should take if they have the recalled good

Furthermore, these agencies update the public on the recall status and any new relevant information. 

Difference Between Mandatory and Voluntary Recall

When a manufacturer initiates a recall, this is a voluntary recall. In most cases, after reviewing consumer reports and data pointing to a potential or established hazard, a firm or company will consult with the appropriate organization and issue a recall for the product without agency intervention. Also, agencies like the FDA will often provide companies with a notification to voluntarily recall a product before resorting to a mandatory recall. Usually, manufacturers decide to comply with a voluntary recall as it puts them in a more favorable light. If a company or firm waits for a mandatory recall, this may open them to further scrutiny in litigation. 

Although mandatory recalls are seldom, they can still happen. However, mandatory recalls do not occur with the same frequency as voluntary recalls. This type of recall is a last resort after the entity responsible for the dangerous product has failed or refused to initiate a recall independently. Under some circumstances, an agency may not be able to force a recall. For example, the FDA cannot issue a mandatory recall of drugs. Yet, the FDA can do so for defective medical devices. 

Examples of Both Recalls

In 2018, the FDA ordered a mandatory recall for food products for the first time. The recall applied to all Triangle Pharmanaturals products with powdered kratom after testing discovered Salmonella. The FDA provided Triangle Pharmanaturals the opportunity to initiate a voluntary recall, but the company did not cooperate. However, as we have mentioned, usually, it does not come down to a mandatory recall. 

As opposed to a mandatory recall, Fisher-Price voluntarily recalled millions of infant sleepers after reports of infant death and injuries. 

Voluntary Recall Does Not Absolve Firms of Negligence

It is important to note that even if a company initiates a voluntary recall, this does not absolve it of liability. Even though we use the word “voluntary,” most times, one of the government agencies recommends or requests the company to issue a voluntary recall. Therefore, the term is slightly misleading. Prompting by the FDA or CPSC pushes many firms toward a voluntary recall. While the word implies companies always take the initiative, in many cases, companies receive a nudge to “voluntarily” recall a hazardous product. 

Furthermore, a company may drag its feet in issuing a voluntary recall. Sometimes a manufacturer will wait until it receives several reports of injury or malfunctions related to its product before taking any action. For instance, an FDA investigation revealed that Philips knew about dangerous foam degradation in its CPAP and BiPAP ventilators back in 2015. The degraded foam releases toxic particles and carcinogenic gasses that can harm users. Despite learning of this problem in 2015, Philips did not issue a voluntary recall until 2021. 

Even though a voluntary recall is technically better for the image of a company, it does not clear the company from future litigation. For example, many hernia mesh manufacturers voluntarily recalled their products in the past due to major defects that injured patients. Yet, individuals continue to file lawsuits years after the initial recalls. 

How Our Law Firm Can Help You 

If a defective product harmed you or a loved one, regardless of if it was subject to a voluntary or mandatory recall, The Lake Law Firm can assist you. Remember that even if a company proceeded with a voluntary recall, this does not prevent you from filing a lawsuit. 

The Lake Law Firm was founded by Edward J. Lake, Esq., a personal injury lawyer for over 25 years. Our dedicated team of attorneys is committed to seeking justice on behalf of those who have suffered injury or death due to the negligence of others. Our experienced attorneys handle many different types of pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, and other defective products. The lawyers in our firm have helped collect millions of dollars for their clients. The Lake Law Firm will advocate for you and your rights. Please contact us for a free confidential case evaluation at (888) 274-0139.