ConsumerBell Aims to Make Product Recalls Less Painful for Manufacturers and Consumers

6/14/11Follow @arleneweintraub

After Ellie Chachette’s father was infected with HIV from a product that he was taking in the 1980s to treat his hemophilia, he joined a class-action lawsuit that took 10 years for his lawyers to fight. They ultimately won, but “the lawyers got most of the money,” Cachette recalls. “That always bothered me.”

So in May of last year, Cachette, who has a background in IT and marketing, started up ConsumerBell, a website that’s designed to be a central clearinghouse for information related to product recalls. Today the site, which has been in beta for the last several months, is rolling out a host of new features that consumer-products companies can use to better manage recalls and communicate with customers who may be affected. The idea is for consumers to get the news about recalls quicker, so fewer people will be hurt and ultimately fewer class-action lawsuits will be filed, Cachette says.

ConsumerBell offers different services for retailers, manufacturers, and consumers. With the site’s new “corporate login” feature, store owners and product makers can post information about recalls, as well as forms for customers to fill out when they need to return a product or request a refund. The companies can then track the recall process in real time, amassing data on where refund requests are coming from, for example, and the time of day that most consumers are responding to recall news. ConsumerBell owns more than 50 Twitter handles and domain names, including Childrensrecalls.com, Kidrecalls.com, and Recallmarket.com—which it can use to widely disseminate product news, Cachette says.

The site already lists 60 recalled products. There are Kashi frozen Mediterranean pizzas, for example, and American Girl bracelets. Pet owners browsing ConsumerBell will learn that Bravo roasted pig ears have been recalled because of a Salmonella scare. Cachette and her staff of four have been proactively combing the Web for recall notices and adding them to the site’s “marketplace,” which now includes everything from sewing machines to strollers to toy helicopters. Cachette anticipates there will be 200 products listed on the site by next month.

But what’s particularly surprising to Cachette is that more than a dozen companies have already signed up to use ConsumerBell’s corporate services—even though some of them aren’t going through a recall at the moment. “They’re getting to know the system so they don’t have to … Next Page »

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