Recalls: What Information Should Be On Your Social Media Forums?
With the increased number of recalls, there is a hot button issue facing manufacturers and retailers: going forward, should your company implement a practice that includes announcing all recalls on its Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites? And more importantly, will doing so help protect it from CPSC scrutiny and potential penalties?
Members of the Consumer Product Safety Committee (CPSC) weighed in on this issue at an international product liability conference last month. The CPSC members highlighted the importance of utilizing social media platforms to announce product recalls and other product safety information. They advised it is no longer acceptable for companies to solely rely on direct letters to consumers to convey recall information, especially when social media is now the largest news source for the millennial generation. In particular, it is important for companies to post recall information on all of their social media platforms. For example, if a company has a specific product line-focused Facebook page, as well as a general company Facebook page, the recall should be listed on both pages so that the content may reach the broadest possible audience.
The CPSC’s emphasis on the importance of social media during a recall process is not a new development. The CPSC has recommended companies announce recalls on social media platforms since at least 2013 when it developed a social media guide for recalling companies. This guide recommends that companies post a short blurb (150-200 characters) describing the recall with a hyperlink to the recall notice. It also encourages companies to post recall information on all of their social media outlets, including but not limited to Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Many manufacturers and distributors, however, remain unsure of whether they should utilize these platforms to announce a recall. While some, such as Little Tikes, have announced recent recalls on their Facebook and Twitter feeds, many others have not. Given the CPSC’s recent heightened enforcement of manufacturer and retailer reporting obligations – and its willingness to impose record high penalties – companies should consider implementing proactive and thorough processes for announcing recalls, including through social media notifications.
A company’s best practices for social media recall notifications should be addressed in its Safety Compliance Plan. The plan should also describe the company’s processes for developing safe products and actively monitoring potential safety issues, including the role of the Product Safety Committee or Review Board and identification of the individuals responsible for notifying distributors and retail consumers. Creating and implementing a Safety Compliance Plan is one of the most important risk management strategies companies can use to protect themselves from the rapidly changing CPSC landscape.