How vehicle safety recalls work in the UK

We thought it might be helpful for our customers to read a little more on how vehicle safety recalls work and how they are actually conducted and regulated in the UK.


Vehicle safety recalls are important, so it may be reassuring to know that in Britain they are carried out in line with a strict industry code of practice that’s rated the best in Europe.

According to latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the system is achieving 93 per cent strike rate in resolving the issues involved vehicle safety-critical recalls, with all work carried out at no cost to the consumer. This compares to just 20 per cent for white goods manufacturers.

The ‘missing’ seven per cent is made up of vehicles that have been stolen, written off or have left the country with no record. Toyota performs slightly higher than average in the UK.

The body responsible for overseeing the recall process is the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). Its code of practice was drawn up by the Department for Transport and the trade associations that represent the UK motor industry and complies with both EU and UK regulations on product safety.

It’s the duty of the vehicle producer to inform VOSA when it has “substantial evidence” of a safety defect that requires remedial action. This can be supported by further evidence of collisions or safety issues that have been brought to their attention by third parties. VOSA decides whether the code should be invoked for a safety recall, taking into account the number of vehicles involved and the seriousness of the hazard.

It’s then down to the vehicle supplier to take “all reasonable action” to get in touch with the owners or registered keepers of the vehicles affected, recall them for inspection and, if necessary, rectify any components or assemblies that are believed to be defective.

VOSA works with the vehicle supplier to make sure that communications sent to owners/keepers explains the problem and its implications in layman’s terms. If there’s no response, further notices will be sent and, if requested, the DVLA will help by providing relevant names and addresses.

Suppliers have to keep VOSA informed about the response rate at three monthly intervals, until the recall is complete or it’s mutually agreed that the campaign be closed.

Details in this article were correct at the time of publication.