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Product safety solicitor calls for more proactive vehicle recall system

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) should be more proactive in recalling cars that have a known safety fault, product safety solicitor Zahra Nanji told BBC's Watchdog this week.

Posted on 04 October 2019

The BBC Watchdog team carried out an investigation into the vehicle recall system in the UK compared to other countries. The team found that makes and models of vehicles which had known faults had been recalled in other countries but not in the UK, leaving thousands of potentially dangerous vehicles on the road.
The Watchdog team spoke to a woman who was driving her BMW on the motorway when it caught fire and she was trapped in the car for a short period before managing to escape. She had been notified of a fault with the car via a recall letter and booked it into a BMW garage to have it fixed. When she enquired about the repairs she was given the impression the fault was not serious and the car was fine to drive while the dealership waited on parts to fix the problem. The repair was scheduled for the day after it caught fire. The programme found that the recall was issued in the UK months after the cars had been recalled abroad.
BMW told the programme that it had worked to fix all affected vehicles and had extended the recall to another 27,000 cars.
A number of drivers had contacted the Watchdog team to tell their stories about vehicle faults, including one Land Rover owner whose engine had completely cut out while he was driving and was then told that engine failure was not serious enough to prompt a recall.
In a statement to Watchdog the DVSA pointed out that drivers don’t always respond to recall notices or keep their registered addresses up to date which makes it more difficult. Presenter Steph McGovern responded that “it’s funny that no one seems to have any bother tracking you down for a parking ticket or anything like that – maybe people don’t respond to recall notices because it is not really clear there is a risk”.
Zahra Nanji, from the product safety and consumer law team at Leigh Day, spoke to Watchdog presenter Steph McGovern about the problem. She said:
“In the UK it’s the manufacturers that have to get all the information together and then notify the regulator, it’s not the other way around, so it’s a reactive system rather than a proactive one.
“In my opinion, the DVSA need to have more powers in terms of being pro-proactive. It would be helpful for them to have the information to actually go to the manufacturers and say, ‘What are you doing about this?’ before it becomes a bigger problem.”