Kanebo's 'slow' product recall: blame Kao

By Chris BARKER

- Last updated on GMT

Kanebo's 'slow' product recall: blame Kao

Related tags: Consumer protection

The Japanese company has been accused of not responding fast enough to skin whitening complaints, however Cosmetics Design spoke to reps that reveal its parent company Kao had to give them the nod first.    

Shinji Yamada, corporate PR manager at Kanebo, explained to CosmeticsDesign-Asia.com: "as a 100% subsidiary of KAO we are required to get the mother company’s endorsement. The timing and process of the recall was decided at the Kao management's conference." 

It has been reported in the press that the company took almost a week to announce the recall, having made the decision to withdraw product ranges containing Rhododendrol on June 28 whilst the problem was not revealed to the public until July 4.

However the recall actually occurred two days after Kao group, Kanebo’s parent company, endorsed its decision on July 2. As a subsidiary, Kanebo could not make a move without approval.

A spokesperson said that the delay was partly the result of the company making preparations to deal with the expected injuries and complaints from customers, and that the firm did not appreciate the scale of the problem at the time.

Yamada said: "Given the large number of recalled products, sales outlets (over 15,000)...and the high circulation of products in the market, this recall posed considerable logistic challenges that had to be solved in advance."

Kanebo’s medical response

The number of consumers complaining of patches of skin whitening or other symptoms after using affected products has now topped 6,600.

Kanebo has pledged to visit and provide compensation for anyone affected by their polluted cosmetics. 1,988 affected customers were listed as having recovered or being on their way to recovery.

Yamada said: "Now that we see the dimension of the damage and have more facts on the table, it is quite understandable that we are criticized for every day that it took to enact the recall."

Consumer affairs agency

Kanebo has been asked to report to Japan's consumer affairs agency on the reasons for their delay in recalling the tainted products. 

The cosmetics company had previously been praised by analysts for its rapid and comprehensive response to the crisis.

Dr Alain Khaiat of the consumer care organization Seers Consulting commented to CosmeticsDesign-Asia.com: “Personally I think the decision taken is very ethical and reflects highly on the company. It is never easy to make such decisions, it does impact company P&L but also company’s image.”

Shedding some light

The source of the mysterious lightening effect has not yet been uncovered. 

According to the company, the product took several years to develop and was tested on approximately 1,000 people before being released onto the market.

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