Recall website fails to cope with volume of traffic caused by airbag failures

Grim testimonies given to a US senate committee fuelled the concerns over Takata's airbags.
GARY CAMERON/FAIRFAX NZ

Grim testimonies given to a US senate committee fuelled the concerns over Takata's airbags.

Consumer Affairs Minister Paul Goldsmith says he is disappointed the Government's product recall website didn't cope with a flood of visits prompted by a huge recall of faulty airbags. 

About 300,000 vehicles made by 14 manufacturers will need to have their airbags replaced because of a fault that means they may fail to deploy properly in a crash.

Concerned car owners were unable to get much more information from government website recalls.govt.nz on Wednesday morning after the site crashed under the weight of inquiries.

Goldsmith said he was disappointed and had asked officials to update him on how they intended to ensure there was no repeat.

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"I am advised the trading standards team are looking at optimising the site's ability to deal with similar spikes should they occur in the future," he said.

"While the website was temporarily down, information on the recall was made available to consumers through various social media platforms and was also published on the Consumer Protection website."

Visits to recalls.govt.nz were up 360 times on normal said Martin Rushton, principal advisor for trading standards at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

"While any outage is disappointing, we are taking steps to mitigate any similar events in the future, including optimising the site's ability to deal with spikes," he said on Wednesday afternoon, after the site was back up and running. 

Spokeswoman Casey Hamilton Harrison indicated that the ministry didn't yet have all the information people might be looking for anyway.

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The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) was the "lead agency" for the recall and was still working on an up-to-date list of models affected by the potentially faulty Takata airbags, she said. 

Rushton expected MBIE would publish that information on the product recalls website when it was available. 

The recalls site was hosted by Spark subsidiary Revera, he said.

An industry executive with experience of product recalls and load-testing said it was surprising the site had crashed.

But there was some sympathy from Don Christie, co-chairman of information technology industry body NZRise.

The ministry might not have anticipated a lot of traffic to the recall website and would not have wanted to overengineer it, he said.

"It is probably not considered critical infrastructure.

"If you had a site that was totally gold-plated, you'd be asking why it cost $10 million," he said.

The NZTA has yet to respond to a request for comment on when it will have more details about the particular models of cars impacted by the recall.

 - Stuff

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