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What Makes Something a Defective Product?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 17, 2024
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Exact regulations, criteria, and laws related to and governing defective products and their manufacturers and retailers depend on the location. Generally, though, a product is considered defective if it is a tangible item that doesn’t work properly or is dangerous due to the way it’s made or a lack of usage instructions. Manufacturers, retailers, and other entities involved in the distribution of consumer goods are held responsible for defective products, and any action taken against them depends on the location’s laws and any damage consumers sustain.

When a person purchases a defective product, he has purchased a product that meets one or more of a certain set of criteria. Those criteria depend on the specific government’s consumer protection laws. In the United States, for example, a defective product is one that is unfit, dangerous, or harmful when used as normally intended. The product might also be considered defective if it doesn’t come with adequate instructions for proper use. Beyond use, a product might be defective because of the way it’s designed, assembled, or manufactured.

Certain entities are held responsible for defective products and the injuries and deaths they cause. This responsibility is called product liability, and such entities include those that manufacture, distribute, supply, and sell the defective consumer products to the public. There are certain categories of product liability, including a manufacturing defect, a design defect, and a failure to warn, which is also known as a marketing defect.

Action taken after a consumer purchases a defective product depends on the specific situation. For example, if the consumer isn’t injured or killed, he might obtain a replacement product or a refund. On the other hand, if the consumer is injured or killed, he or his surviving family might hire an attorney who specializes in consumer protection and defective product litigation.

Even if the consumer doesn’t take legal action, he can still report the defective consumer product. In addition to reporting the product to the manufacturer and retailer, he can report the product to the government organization that handles consumer protection and safety laws. In the United States, one such organization is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Depending on the type of product, though, the consumer might be required to contact another agency. Some area’s laws, such as those in the U.S., might require the manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers to report the defective product, also.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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