Social media tipped as channel for product recalls

Australian consumer watchdog advocates more use of social media tools

The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has advocated more use of social media tools in a bid to improve the effectiveness of product recalls.

According to the competition regulator, there have been more than 10,000 products recalled in Australia in the last 23 years. The overall average return rate of recalled goods was 56.75 per cent, and varied between 36 per cent and 80 per cent.

In examining product recalls, the ACCC found that use of newspapers alone to advertise recall notices is in many cases no longer sufficient, and that communication channels allowing direct contact between the supplier and consumers, such as social media, are the most effective methods of communicating product recalls.

"In metropolitan areas, 70 per cent of Australians now have broadband internet access, while 60 per cent have broadband in non-metropolitan areas," the report reads.

"Furthermore, internet access is becoming much more widely available. This trend suggests that notifying people of a product recall through online communication could be particularly effective. The various online methods of communication that could be employed include forums, blogs, microblogs, websites and social networking sites.

"For example, some suppliers now use new internet phenomena like Facebook and Twitter to advertise recalls, responding to the growing popularity among some consumer demographics of blogs and social networking sites."

The ACCC also found that the ability to trace products, especially high-risk products, into the hands of consumers would improve recall effectiveness. It would also enable suppliers to undertake more targeted and therefore more cost-efficient recalls.

"To enable effective product tracking, the ACCC will encourage suppliers to have systems in place to track products and retain records that reflect the movement of products through the supply chain," the report reads.

"Greater ability to identify particular batches of products and track them effectively through the supply chain would mean recall action could be limited to fewer products and communications could be more effectively targeted. The ACCC will also encourage other mechanisms to ensure that consumers are made aware of product recalls, such as warranty cards and online registration facilities."

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