- The Consumer Product Safety Commission is under fire for its handling of a lawsuit against Britax Child Safety, a UK-based manufacturer of strollers, high chairs, and car seats.
- The Washington Post reported that, from 2012, the CPSC has received 200 reports of “spontaneous failure of the stroller wheel” in Britax’s BOB jogging strollers.
- Over 100 adults and children reportedly suffered injuries from these accidents, including broken bones, facial lacerations, and ruined teeth.
- But, according to the Post, President Donald Trump’s appointees on the CPSC voted to give the manufacturer a settlement instead of advocating for a recall.
- In a statement to Business Insider, Buerkle called the Post’s report “misleading.”
The CPSC is an independent government agency that is responsible for developing product safety standards. Presidents appoint partisan commissioners, who serve seven-year terms. The president also selects the five-person commission’s chairperson.
The CPSC launched an investigation into Britax’s BOB single- and double-occupant jogging strollers, as consumers issued 200 reports of “spontaneous failure” of the stroller’s wheel between 2012 and 2018. Those reports described over 100 injuries of adults and children, including gruesome details like broken bones, torn-up faces, and shattered teeth.
Britax did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The commission brought a lawsuit against the manufacturer in February 2018, after the company refused to launch a voluntary recall of the strollers the year before.
But in November, the commission reached a settlement with Britax. Instead of recalling the product, the company agreed to post a video about the strollers as part of an “information campaign” and offer affected consumers replacement parts and discounts for a year.
“CPSC urges consumers to contact Britax to participate in the BOB stroller information campaign, including information on how to receive incentives that are being offered,” a CPSC spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.
Cowles, however, said the settlement fails to put US consumers first.
“I can’t quite overstate how far this settlement departs from what is usual standard practice in a corrective action plan for a manufacturer,” Nancy Cowles, the executive director of child-focused consumer protection group Kids in Danger, told Business Insider.
Democratic commissioners Robert Adler and Elliot Kaye, who voted against their three Republican colleagues, also voiced criticisms of the decision in a dissent.
“We regret this not only because we believe consumers will come up short in terms of safety, but also because we fear that other respondents will invoke this agreement as a precedent in future recalls, thereby lessening safety for far more consumers than are affected by this agreement,” Adler and Kaye wrote.
Kaye previously told ABC that, under Republican leadership, the CPSC would do “an abrupt 180-degree on safety.” The Washington Post reported that, under acting chairwoman Buerkle’s leadership, “the number of public recalls fell to its lowest level in a decade” in 2018.
Buerkle called the Post’s report “misleading” in a statement sent to Business Insider, and add that, “Comments by former commissioners or others do not change the facts.”
“CPSC has implemented tough new mandatory standards for nursery products in recent years, required independent third party testing for children’s products and increased staffing at US ports in an effort to protect consumers,” a CPSC spokesperson said to Business Insider. “When firms make products that meet safety standards, this results in fewer recalls.”
But Cowles told Business Insider that Buerkle typically focuses more on “educating” consumers rather than cracking down on companies. Cowles added that protecting children from harmful products “should be above politics.”
“What parents really need is that – when they go out to buy a product that they’ll use to care for their child, whether it’s a crib, stroller, high chair, or a toy – that someone’s made sure it’s safe before it gets into their home,” Cowles said. “And if it’s found to be unsafe, they need someone to make the effort to get it out of their home.”
Here’s the full statement from the CPSC Chair Ann Marie Buerkle:
The Washington Post article concerning the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s settlement with Britax is misleading. Comments by former commissioners or others do not change the facts.
The safety agenda of this important agency has remained the same – to seek the best solution in the shortest amount of time to help prevent unreasonable risks of harm to consumers. In this case, the diligent career staff of our agency negotiated and agreed to a settlement with Britax and recommended it to the Commission. The Commission approved the settlement upon the staff’s recommendation, keeping in mind the agency’s experience in valuing a settlement much sooner than a prolonged, protracted, and uncertain lawsuit.
Any attempt by individuals to spin the story otherwise is misleading and a disservice to our agency experts and all their efforts to find a solution that would improve consumer safety as quickly as possible.
The Britax settlement advances consumer safety. I urge those who own the strollers to take part in Britax’s education and information campaign. Consumers can find the many options being offered by Britax at cpsc.gov or the BOBGear website.
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