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Keep Tabs on Your Product Liability

By: Steve Buckley and Frank Monaco
Posted: November 9, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Brand, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and others in the chain of product creation and distribution can be held liable for damages caused by a defect.
  • Batch coding is a much more accurate measure than retrieving a sample of the product in question from a claimant.
  • By adhering to all packaging and labeling requirements and using batch coding, brands can be confident they have greatly reduced exposure to product liability claims.

When consumers claim they were harmed by a beauty product—usually the claim is a chemical burn or allergic reaction— the potential financial liability can be significant. And because of product and strict liability laws, the claimants don’t have to prove the manufacturer or brand was negligent, only that the product was defective.

Strict liability, also called “liability without fault,” means that manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers and others in the chain of distribution can be held liable for damages caused by a defect—regardless of whether or not they are at fault. How, then, can a brand defend itself in a personal injury case involving its product? The key is to be able to trace the product back to its original batch.

Every product, whether it is headed for the salon or for the retail shelf, should bear a stamped batch code that links it back to retained samples in your facility. If you properly retain samples from the original batch, you will be able to prove the exact ingredients that are in the product. This also means that it can be determined whether a product was tampered with after it left your facility.

Key Factors in Your Defense

Beauty products are tested in a controlled environment, so very seldom will they cause a chemical burn or permanent damage without misuse by the end user. There is also the possibility that a consumer has an allergic reaction to the product ingredient.