Gov’t to seek the power to force product recalls

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Gov’t to seek the power to force product recalls

After recent incidents in the automotive and electronic sectors, the government is working to expand its power to force companies to recall their products.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said yesterday it is drawing up new regulations so that it can order industrial product manufacturers to recall products when defects are found. Currently, there are regulations that apply only to limited products, mostly in the automotive and food sectors.

“Recall” has recently become one of the ugliest words in the industrial lexicon as Toyota underwent a huge recall of vehicles with defective car components in the United States, Hyundai Motor voluntarily recalled sedans with a door lock problem in the United States and Korea, and LG Electronics voluntarily recalled front-loading washing machines sold in Korea to install safer doors.

The Toyota incident, in particular, attests to how damaging and costly it can be to delay a response.

“Because there have been no such regulations that encompass all industrial products, what we did has been mostly just damage control,” said Jang Hyeok-jo at the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, which operates under the ministry.

One well-known case includes a series of laptop battery blasts that led, belatedly, to a new regulation concerning such products. Under the new rule, the government can enforce a company to recall its products at any stage - shipment, distribution or consumption.

According to the ministry, the new regulation, slated to come into effect next February, will be applied only to industrial products that the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards monitors, but it is expected to soon be expanded to a wider range of goods, and eventually to affect entire industries.

But some industry experts say it is unlikely that the government-initiated mandatory recall will be rampant, considering the situation in United States where mandatory recalls account for just around 10 percent. The remaining recalls are voluntary.

By Kim Hyung-eun, Kwon Ho []

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