Is Your Company Prepared For a Recall? If You're Not On Twitter, You're Not Prepared.
In 2003, Cervelo, the maker of high end road bicycles, voluntarily, and in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recalled 317 Wolf all carbon road bicycle forks. In April 2012, a Massachusetts man riding on a bike fitted with the recalled forks crashed and died. Police stated that the rider was on a Cervelo Soloist and that it appeared a "mechanical failure" causing the forks to separate from the bike led to the crash. An investigation is currently underway, but let us assume, for purposes of this article, that the recalled Cervelo forks caused the accident and ultimately the man’s death.
Most punitive damage awards stem from evidence that the manufacturer knew or should have known about a post-sale problem but failed to take adequate remedial measures to prevent accidents.
In the Cervelo case, the recalled Cervelo forks were sold from April 2003 until July 2003 - with a recall announced July 31, 2003. It would appear that Cervelo worked swiftly to recall the defective forks. But with only 300 forks sold in such a short period of time, how was it that Cervelo was unable to reach all owners of the forks? The bottom line is no one should have been riding on those forks. In its latest Consumer Product Safety Commission Recall Handbook, the CPSC lists dozens of ways to inform consumers of a product hazard and recall. Of note is the social media aspect, perhaps the most efficient way to reach your consumer:
The Commission encourages companies to be creative in developing ways to reach owners of recalled products and motivate them to respond ... As new or innovative methods of notice and means of communication become available, such as social media, the staff encourages their use. ... use of a firm’s social media presence to notify consumers of the recall, including Facebook, Google +, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, company blogger networks, and blog announcements.
Just this week, bike manufacturer Specialized issued a recall due to hazardous break levers. However, the company has not yet announced the recall on Twitter - where it has more than 60,000 followers. Others have tweeted about the recall but nothing from the Specialized company itself (as of the writing of this blog post). This is such a missed opportunity - Specialized can immediately reach 60,000+ consumers who will immediately get the information it provides (not to mention there are more likely than not some affected consumers following on Twitter.)
In the Cervelo case, a question will certainly be asked whether Cervelo did everything it reasonably could have done to ensure all forks were replaced. How did (if at all) Cervelo try to inform the man that his bike was one that had the defective forks? Twitter was not around in 2003, and it is doubtful the company had policies and procedures in place to notify customers via social media at that point. But times have changed. It is 2012, and there is simply no excuse not to use social media to inform consumers of hazards and recalls associated with your products. And keep in mind that many (if not most) of your jurors will use and understand Twitter, Facebook and the latest social media - and wonder why you did not use it to let them know they could get hurt.
The Boulder lawyers at Laszlo & Associates, LLC provide legal counsel to businesses on a variety of business needs including products liability, risk management, corporate protection and legal compliance.