Graco Fined $10 Million for Slow Recall of Defective Car Seats
Graco Children’s Products has agreed to pay a total of $10 million in fines for failing to recall car seats with defective buckles in a timely manner. $3 million of the fines will be paid to the Federal Government while and another $7 million will be due within five years unless Graco spends the same amount on improving child car seat safety.
In 2014, Graco Children’s Products recalled a total of 6.1 million child car seats over consumer complaints about harness buckles becoming stuck in the latched position, which could make it exceedingly difficult to get a child out of the car in the event of an emergency. The initial recall began in February 2014 for 4.2 million forward-facing toddler car seats, prompting the NHTSA to question why several other rear-facing infant car seats that use the same buckle weren’t also recalled. The NHTSA called the recall “incomplete and misleading” and Graco finally relented to scrutiny in July 2014 and added 1.9 million rear-facing infant car seats. The recall became the largest child car seat recall in American history.
Under federal rules, manufacturers must report any safety defect within five days of becoming aware of the problem. If a manufacturer fails to do so, the NHTSA can impose fines against the manufacturer, which is what happened in this incident with Graco.
The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation received 85 complaints from consumers about the buckles, including 9 from people who were unable to unlatch the buckle at all and were forced to cut their child out from the car seat. Studies the NHTSA conducted on the recalled car seats found that if the latches became stuck, parents may resort to removing the car seat with the child still in it to get it out of the car in the event of an emergency. According to the NHTSA, Graco received at least 6,100 complaints about the defective buckles.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said of the fines, “Parents need to know that the seats they trust to protect their children are safe and that when there’s a problem, the manufacturer will meet its obligations to fix the defect quickly. Today’s action reinforces that responsibility in a way that will make our kids safer for decades to come.” NTHSA administrator Mark Rosekind said, “Today’s action uses NHTSA’s enforcement authority to not only hold a manufacturer responsible, but to keep our kids safe. It’s another example of our commitment to use every tool available to save lives on our highways and to use those tools in an innovative and more effective way.”
As part of its efforts to improve child car seat safety, Graco plans to create improved methods and procedures for addressing certain performance requirements, including ways to improve car seat registration to help consumers become more aware of car seat recalls. As important as safe car seats are, recalled car seats have a rather low rate of having repairs made on them. Currently, only about 40% of consumers who own a recalled car seat get the necessary repairs made to them, whereas 75% of people who own a recalled car have their repairs made.