Social media to drive product recalls

Posted by Janice Wong on 28th May 2010

Australian food suppliers may soon be required by law to communicate more frequently and directly to consumers by means of tailored communication methods such as social media and blogging, which will see Australia at the forefront of innovation.

In a report released today, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has analysed the way consumers are informed about product recalls (in all categories not only food) and proposes significant changes in this area. The report, titled Review of the Australian Product Safety Recall System, highlights the fact that consumers are often unaware of product recalls because the information is simply not reaching consumers.

Over the past 23 years, there have been more than 10,000 recalls (across all categories) and in 2009 there were 779 recalls in Australia, some involving many thousands of products. Product recalls are an extremely important part of the Australian consumer product safety system, however, consumer responses to product recalls have varied widely and “in some cases have been nearly non-existent,” ACCC deputy chair Peter Kell said today.

“The report gives a blueprint for changes to the recalls system, particularly about how consumers are alerted to recalls, with the aim of increasing awareness and recall response rates.

“The report recommends suppliers be expected to develop recall communication plans that target consumers based on demographics and communication preferences, including making greater use of social media and online forms of communication such as websites and blogs to advertise product recalls.

“I am particularly excited about the use of social media to tell consumers about product recalls,” Mr Kell said.


“There is a real need for suppliers to implement tailored communications strategies in the event of a recall. The days of relying just on newspaper advertisements as the major method of communication are past.”

The ACCC is keen to lead the way and to show the importance of using modern communication methods. To broadcast the release of the report, it has:

* sent ‘tweets’ on a newly established Twitter account: @productsafetyAU.
* blogged on a range of relevant sites
* developed a new recall ‘widget’* which will be trialled on a range of relevant websites shortly, and
* directly emailed hundreds of industry associations and stakeholders.

The new Product Safety Recalls Australia website,, also allows consumers and businesses to sign up for electronic recall alerts about the types of products of most interest to them, such as children’s products.

Other steps the ACCC is taking to improve recall effectiveness includes encouraging suppliers to place tracking labels on their products to enable the product to be easily traced as it moves through the supply chain and into the hands of consumers.

Suppliers will also be encouraged to use online warranty cards and registration systems and make greater use of loyalty card data to identify consumers who bought products which were later recalled.

The report also flags that the ACCC will not accept that a recall is finalised until the cause of the problem is identified and measures are put in place to ensure that it does not recur.

Many of the measures to improve the effectiveness of the recall system will be reflected in new recall guidelines for suppliers.

An electronic version of the publication is available at no cost on the ACCC website:; the Product Safety Australia website: and the Product Safety Recalls Australia website:

*A widget is a web application that can be displayed on any website and allows visitors to that site to see the latest product recalls as well as search the recalls database for specific products or manufacturers.