Electricity Ordinance, Chapter 406

Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation

Guidelines on Voluntary Recall of Electrical Products Not Complying with the Safety Requirements

  1. INTRODUCTION
    1. The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) is charged with the enforcement duties under the Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation (EPSR) of the Electricity Ordinance (EO), Chapter 406. The enforcement objective is to detect electrical products not complying with the prescribed safety requirements and to stop them from being further supplied in order to protect consumers against safety risks associated with such products.
    2. Voluntary Recall of Electrical Products Our inspectors carry out tests on a home appliance Safety inspection of the communal electrical installations in a private building Safety inspection of the communal electrical installations in a private building Where the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services (DEMS) considers that an electrical product does not meet the prescribed safety requirements, he may prohibit its use and/or supply under Section 25 of the EO. Section 11 of the EPSR further empowers DEMS to serve on the supplier of the electrical product concerned a written notice requiring the supplier to notify the purchasers about the hazardous defects in the product, accept a return of the product and refund the purchasers any sum paid for the product subject that a receipt for the product is surrendered. A person who is served with such a mandatory recall notice and fails or refuses to comply with it commits an offence.
    3. Mandatory recall of an electrical product will be considered when the non-complying electrical product poses significant risk of hazards. The risk associated with the electrical product would be assessed taking into consideration of various factors including potential injury, probability of hazard occurrence, etc.
    4. Apart from mandatory product recalls required under the EPSR, manufacturers, importers or any suppliers may initiate voluntary recalls of their electrical products which may be non-complying with the safety requirements to prevent the possibility of injury to consumers.
    5. This publication is to provide guidance for carrying out electrical product recalls on voluntary basis. It explains what should be done when electrical products have to be removed from the market and/or the consumers for public safety reasons. Recall of hazardous electrical products is in the common interest of the industry, the government and in particular, the consumers.
  2. OBJECTIVES OF A VOLUNTARY RECALL The objectives of a voluntary product recall are -
    1. to remove products which are non-complying with the prescribed safety requirements from the distribution chain and preferably to retrieve them from the possession of consumers; and
    2. to disseminate accurate and understandable information to the public about the non-compliance or defect of the product, the potential risk to consumers, and actions to be taken to address the potential risk.
  3. ROLE OF EMSD EMSD's main role in a voluntary recall is to monitor the progress of the recall and assess the adequacy of a supplier's action. After a recall is completed, EMSD will review the result of the recall and may consider requesting the supplier taking further action, if required. EMSD may make publicity about a recall when it considers that the public needs to be alerted about the potential hazard or that clarification of the situation needs to be made to allay public worries.
  4. ROLE OF THE PARTY CONDUCTING THE RECALL The party such as manufacturers, importers and agents, etc. supplying electrical products to Hong Kong carry the prime responsibility of implementing the recall, in a prompt and effective manner. The recall should be undertaken in consultation with EMSD to reach prior agreement on the recall strategy. During the recall process, the party should keep EMSD informed of the latest developments.
  5. INITIATION OF A RECALL
    1. Recall may be initiated as a result of reports / complaints from a variety of sources, such as manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers. It may also be initiated by reports appearing in overseas bulletins and similar publications of relevant authorities, or from information received directly from such authorities. Furthermore, it may be initiated by EMSD when the product is found potentially hazardous and had already been supplied in Hong Kong before the EPSR was put into operation in May 1998.
    2. To minimise the risk that may arise, recalls are usually carried out in the shortest time practicable. The party is encouraged to develop its own recall procedures so that it can respond promptly to any emerging situation. The procedures should be able to achieve the purposes of stopping distribution and sale of an affected item, notifying the public and EMSD of the problem, and effectively and efficiently retrieve from the market any product, which is potentially hazardous.
  6. RECALL ARRANGEMENTS
    1. Form of product recall Depending on the nature of the safety risks of the electrical product in question, a voluntary product recall may involve -
      1. replacing the electrical product with a like or equivalent product which complies with the prescribed safety requirements; or
      2. refunding the purchase price of such product (less a reasonable allowance for use, if such product has been in the possession of a consumer for one year or more); or
      3. repairing the defect in the electrical products so that they comply with the applicable safety standard or specification. This option should only be considered if the repair program is simple and would not cause undue inconvenience to those affected.
    2. Means of notification To make a product recall effective and successful and to avoid public confusion, the party conducting the recall should notify and brief all those affected promptly and effectively. The levels of notification may depend on the extent of the recall and the size of population affected. Therefore, one or a combination of the following means of notification may be considered.
      1. Direct notification
        Direct notification is commonly used to notify the retailers and/or wholesalers that a recall is being undertaken. This form of notification is also used when the purchasers including subsequent consumers can be identified. Direct notification may be in the form of a letter with a heading such as " Safety Recall Notice " and addressed to each recipient individually. The notification should clearly and in no uncertain terms spell out that the recall is for safety reasons. Notifications to wholesalers and retailers should contain instructions that the product must be immediately withdrawn from sale. This should be the first means of notifying relevant parties of the recall.
      2. Advertising
        Advertising of a product recall in both Chinese and English language newspapers, on television and radio networks is also a means that should be considered. A recall advertisement should only serve the very purpose of notifying the readers that a product recall is being undertaken and should be distinguished from other promotional advertisements. The advertisement should highlight the heading "Safety Recall Notice" or a similar heading. Depending on the content of the advertisement, the size of the advertisement in newspapers should not be less than 12cm x 15 cm. The size should be increased with the amount of information to be conveyed, the seriousness of the potential hazard and the number of models affected. The recall advertisement should be placed, at least, in two Chinese language newspapers and one English language newspaper on two days. In order to ensure effectiveness of the recall, circulation of the advertising media should be duly considered.
      3. Point of sale poster
        The display of point of sale posters at retail outlets, particularly at supermarkets, chain stores and department stores, where the recalled product was supplied, is another method of notifying the consumers of a recall. The poster should be displayed at several prominent and conspicuous locations in the store for at least two weeks to attract most attention. The posters should highlight the heading " Safety Recall Notice " or a similar heading and should be big enough so that they can be readily seen by consumers. The poster should include the name and telephone number of the party responsible for answering enquiries from the consumers.
      4. Press release
        Unless all purchasers and subsequent consumers of a product being recalled can be identified and notified directly, a supplier ought to issue a press release or an advertisement to generate the widest media attention and consumer response. Such a press release should be made available in both Chinese and English language newspapers, and/or on television and radio networks. The release should include the name and telephone number of the person responsible for answering enquiries from the media and consumers.
      5. Other means
        The party conducting a product recall may use any other means of notifying the public he / she considers appropriate.
    3. Type of Information No matter what level of means of notification is used, accurate information in plain and understandable language should be disseminated to the public in both Chinese and English. Information should include -
      1. Identification of the product
        Clear description of the product being recalled, including the brand name, model or serial number, batch number or product identification code and / or production date and its intended use, should be given. The provision of a photograph or drawing of the product would help avoid unnecessary confusion.
      2. Reasons for recall
        The reasons for the recall should be clearly stated. The information should include the problem of the product, e.g. the non-compliance or defect, and the specific hazard or potential risk.
      3. Immediate action consumers should take
        Advice should be given to consumers on the immediate action to be taken to avoid possible injury, e.g. unplug the electrical product or stop using the electrical product.
      4. Refund, replacement or repair arrangement
        Clear and adequate directions on how consumers may obtain refund, replacement, or repair of the product should be provided. The arrangement should not be so inconvenient or financially disadvantageous as to discourage consumers from returning their products.
      5. Enquiries
        A telephone hotline should also be set up to answer enquiries from consumers, retailers, etc.
    4. Designated location for product recall The product is to be returned to a central location, or in the case of widely distributed product, to various designated locations, e.g. chain stores, supermarkets, department stores, supply outlets / shops, etc. The designated locations should be convenient to the consumers.
    5. Monitoring of consumer response The party conducting a voluntary product recall should keep a record of the number of the product retrieved to monitor the progress of a recall. When the response rate is manifestly low having regard to all the circumstances, e.g. when the product was first distributed, price of the product and expected product life, the party should consider repeating the recall notification.
  7. NOTIFICATION TO EMSD
    1. Any person who wishes to initiate a voluntary product recall should notify EMSD and submit the proposed recall plan before conducting the recall. Where necessary, the Department may offer his / her advice and assistance in designing a recall action plan. Notification of a voluntary product recall and any enquiries about recall arrangements should be addressed to - Electrical Products Sub-division,
      Electricity Legislation Division, EMSD,
      3 Kai Shing Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong
      Tel. : 2808 3803
      Fax: 2895 4929
    2. When a product recall is in progress, EMSD may also provide assistance to ensure that it is being conducted effectively and in accordance with the recall action plan.
    3. A report should be submitted to EMSD after the recall is completed. The report should contain the result of the recall (quantity of stock returned / repaired) and the action proposed to be implemented in future to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
  8. CONCLUSION
    1. An effective and efficient recall is the quickest method to remove potentially hazardous products from the market and the consumers. A manufacturer, importer or agent of an electrical product should consider initiation of a recall as soon as he / she has obtained information, which reasonably supports that such product may be potentially hazardous. The information may include complaints from consumers, reports from the manufacturer, government or similar bodies, and results of test conducted by the supplier, government or similar bodies.
    2. An effective and reasonable recall can produce positive results of restoring and enhancing consumers' confidence in the product in question and rewarding the relevant party with continuing consumer support.
    3. This set of Guidelines intends to provide a guide on how to conduct a voluntary product recall. However, circumstances vary by case. Parties conducting the recall should use their business judgement to design a recall program that best suit their needs and adjust these Guidelines when appropriate.
    4. Enquiries about these guidelines can be addressed to the Electrical Products Sub-division of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, referred to in paragraph 7.1 above.

*Note: This publication is not a legal document. It is only a guide to the arrangements for a voluntary recall of electrical products controlled and regulated by the Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation of Electricity Ordinance, Chapter 406. You must read the Regulation themselves and, if necessary, seek independent legal advice for full and accurate understanding of the Regulation.

Electrical and Mechanical Services Department
March 2003