Consumer Product Safety

Topics: Product liability, Consumer protection, Business Pages: 5 (1622 words) Published: April 16, 2011
Business ethics issues and conflicts are all about relationships. Consumers, suppliers, investors, employees, government agencies or any others that have a claim or stake in any aspect of a business can be regarded as stakeholders (Ferrel et al. 31) These stakeholders have a huge influence on the success of a business because they define substantial ethical issues in business. They also have the ability to withdraw the resources a company needs in order for it to survive. Therefore a company’s relationship with stakeholders is critical. Such a relationship explains why businesses and manufacturers have a legal and moral responsibility to provide consumers with safe products. There are many responsibilities businesses have towards consumers concerning product quality, labeling, prices, and packaging. Furthermore, there are government regulations that are designed to protect a consumer’s well-being. A business’s responsibility for protecting, providing for, and understanding the interests of the consumer comes from the fact that consumers rely on businesses to satisfy their various wants and needs. We can see, in today’s highly technological era, a very complex economy with intense specialization and urban concentration (Shaw 352). Because most of us don’t - or don’t know how to - make our own clothing, construct our own homes, or even grow our own food we depend on business for our own survival and enrichment. Consumer dependence increases a business’s responsibility to the consumer - particularly on its conscientious efforts to support product safety. A firm has a certain stakeholder orientation, that is, the degree to which it understands and addresses stakeholder demands (Ferrel et al. 34). In order for a company’s stakeholder orientation to be fully comprehensive, product safety must be taken under consideration. For example, many Chinese manufacturers and companies use Chinese suppliers. In recent years, these companies have been under criticism and media scrutiny for a lack of concern for consumer safety. From melamine-contaminated dairy products, lead-tainted toys at Mattel, to potentially lethal generic drugs (which is a highly profitable $75 billion a year industry that employs over five million Chinese people) – China has faced serious unsettling allegations in regards to its oversight for consumer welfare (Bate 1). If any consumer were to be injured by a defective product, we can now sue the manufacturer. However, this wasn’t always true. It wasn’t until the landmark case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Car in 1916 - that injured consumers could recover damages from the manufacturer and not just the retailer (Shaw 353). This case led to a stronger understanding of a manufacturer’s duty to consumers. The idea that consumers and sellers do not meet as equals and that the consumer’s interests are particularly vulnerable to being harmed by the manufacturer - who has knowledge and expertise that the consumer does not have - is called “due care” (Velasquez 272). Looking back at the case, for instance, MacPherson had no knowledge of a defective wheel before he purchased his Buick. Corresponding with the due care view, the manufacturers have a high responsibility – above any contract – to exhibit due care in order to ensure the safety of the consumer. The legal liability of a manufacturer for injuries caused by faulty products has changed with time. Today, U.S. courts have moved toward a doctrine of strict product liability. Although MacPherson’s case proved valid, and led to a new due care perspective, the case still leaves the injured consumer with the inconvenience of confirming the manufacturer’s negligence. Such an allegation would be very difficult to prove in court, and sometimes a product is dangerous despite the fact that the manufacturer had taken appropriate measures to avoid such a defect. In 1960 and 1963, in the cases of Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors and Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, the injured consumers...

Cited: Bate, Roger. “China’s Bad Medicine” The Wall Street Journal. May 5, 2009,
Ferrel, O.C., John Fraedrich, and Linda Ferrel. Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases, 8th Edition. Mason, OH: South-Western Cenage Learning, 2008.
Shaw, William H. Business Ethics, 6th Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. 352-386. Print.
Velasquez, Manuel G. Business Ethics, 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.
List of ODU Library Resources:
• Business & Economics Database
1) Business Source Complete
2) ABI/Inform
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