Vehicle safety recalls

Code of practice - how safety defects are identified, investigated and acted upon

A recall is an action taken when a defect is identified which meets the definition of a safety defect that could result in serious injury

A recall is an action taken when a defect is identified which meets the definition of a safety defect that could result in serious injury

A safety related defect is a failure due to design and/or construction, which is likely to affect the safe operation of the product without prior warning to the user and may pose a significant risk to the driver, occupants and others. A defect will be common to a number of products that have been sold for use in the UK.

Such defects involve sudden and catastrophic failure with little or no warning to enable the driver to take preventative action, and cannot normally be identified by routine maintenance or obvious changes to the vehicle’s normal handling or performance.

The Code of Practice on vehicle safety defects is supported by and was developed in consultation with many organisations including;

The code of practice concerns cases where producers, concessionaires or official/independent importers become aware of the existence of potential safety defects in units that are available for supply in the UK.

The code covers passenger cars, commercial vehicles, passenger carrying vehicles, two and three wheeled motorcycles, quadricycles, commercial trailers, agricultural equipment, motor homes/caravans, trailer caravans,  private trailers and components fitted to the product as original equipment.

Safety defects concerning wheels, tyres and parts supplied in the aftermarket are covered by a separate code.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is the government agency responsible for the management of the safety recall scheme in the UK.

Definitions

Definitions in the code of practice include the following:

Safety Defect – a safety related defect is a failure due to design and/or construction, which is likely to affect the safe operation of the product without prior warning to the user and may pose a significant risk to the driver, occupants and others. This defect will be common to a number of products that have been sold for use in the United Kingdom.

General Product Safety Directive 2001 (GPSD) – the European directive on product safety

General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) – the UK product safety legislation that has come from the GPSD.

Producer and/or distributor – the vehicle or component part manufacturer, official/independent importer, converter, distributor or concessionaire.

Safety Recall – The action taken when a defect is identified which meets the definition of a safety defect that could result in a risk of serious injury.

Unit – describes the affected component/part or vehicle.

User/Owner – is a person, a business or group of people that are owner or final users of goods or services.

Non-Code Action – proactive and proportionate action registered with DVSA, which falls outside the scope of a safety recall. Issue may affect the long term safety of the product or its ability to satisfy legislative requirements

Allegations of safety defects

A producer and/or distributor is required to inform DVSA immediately of any issues they have with the safety of their products. DVSA also receive allegations of safety issues from a many sources including from individuals through their defect reporting system.

DVSA will review allegations of a safety defect to determine if it falls within the definition. Those that do will be reported formally to the relevant producer and/or distributor.

DVSA and the producer and the UK distributor will decide on the nature of the investigation and DVSA will write to the complainant on conclusion of the investigation informing them of the outcome.

The producer and/or the distributor will carry out the agreed investigations as quickly and as fully as is required, keeping DVSA updated on progress and providing evidential and statistical information as required.

Producers and/or the distributor have four weeks to respond with initial findings/information.

Actions taken following investigation

Under the General Product Safety Regulations it is the responsibility of the producer or supplier to effectively warn the user of the risk when it has been identified. The priority is to take the most appropriate and proportionate action that will ensure the risk is removed.

The primary responsibility for investigation and deciding on remedial action lies with the producer and/or distributor, but DVSA has responsibility under the GPSR to offer views and make recommendations.

User/Owner notifications

Producers and/or distributors will notify the user of the details of the safety recall.

A number of communications may be necessary to ensure that the message has been received and understood by the user.

If it is a registered product, producers and/or distributors may, request the assistance of DVLA to locate the names and addresses of registered keepers.

Notification will include:

  • Details of the safety issue
  • The repairs/checks required
  • How long the repair is expected to take
  • What the user/owner needs to do
  • Contact details for questions

User/Owner responsibilities

Act promptly if you receive notice of a vehicle safety recall and follow the instructions from the manufacturers.

If you are no longer the owner, tell the manufacturer rather than just ignoring the notice.

If you ignore a recall notice you could be committing an offence of using a defective vehicle – you are responsible for making sure that your vehicle is safe and defect free.

Check for any outstanding recalls if you buy a used car

Monitoring

Producers and/ or distributors will notify DVSA of the response rate at three monthly intervals, until the safety recall is complete or it is mutually agreed that the campaign
be closed for reporting purposes.

Producers and/or distributors should take all reasonable steps to locate and rectify user’s products.

As far as the producer and/or distributor is concerned the Safety Recall stays open indefinitely and a customer’s recall work should be undertaken free of charge regardless of the length of time that has elapsed after the notification letter.

Imported Units

In the case of a potential safety defect affecting units imported by an independent importer, that importer shall bear the responsibilities specified in this Code.

If the independent importer is not available to undertake this obligation, then DVSA will contact the producer and/or distributor of the affected units.

This code will also apply to personally imported units, in so far as the supplier is able to identify the unit’s presence in the UK.

(20 June 2014)