UPDATED: NCCC Urges Graco to Recall Defective Child Safety Seats
The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) is calling on Graco Children's Products, Inc. to recall ALL child safety seats equipped with defective buckles, not just those it has already recalled.
Graco recently announced a recall of approximately 3.8 million front-facing toddler and booster child restraints with an alleged defect that could make it difficult to unlatch the seat's harness buckle and remove a child from the car seat, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a vehicle crash, fire, or other emergency in which a prompt exit from the vehicle is required.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is criticizing the company, saying that the recall doesn't go far enough and should include an additional 1.8 million rear-facing car seats designed for infants that use the same buckle, not just the front-facing seat.
The NHTSA, which says that it has received complaints about both the rear- and front-facing seats, has asked Graco to identify the total number of seats that could potentially have the defect and explain why it excluded some seats from the recall, a sentiment echoed by NCCC.
"The North Carolina Consumers Council is standing behind and fully supporting the NHTSA and their efforts to get the bottom of this very serious safety issue," said NCCC President Sandra Bullock. "It is absolutely appalling to think that a seemingly reputable manufacturer of child safety products would risk the safety and well-being of any child. Noting that the NHTSA has received complaints from concerned consumers about the full range of seat models using this buckle, it only makes sense that all the buckles should be replaced."
Graco states that its own tests show that food or beverages can make the harness buckles in the children's seats sticky and harder to use over time. The company said that rear-facing infant seats aren't being recalled because "infants don't get food or drinks on their seats."
"Some of these consumers have had no choice but to resort to the extreme measure of cutting the harness straps to remove their child from the car seat," the NHTSA said in a letter to Graco.
The NHTSA is also accusing Graco of downplaying the recall with "incomplete and misleading" documents that will be seen by consumers. The agency threatened civil penalties and said that Graco should delete from its documents "any statements that may lead the public to discount the seriousness of the safety risk presented by this defect."
"The safety of a child is non-negotiable," said Bullock. "We implore Graco to do the right thing and extend the recall to include all potentially affected seat models."
The NHTSA has asked Graco to provide detailed information as to why the remaining 1.8 million car seats were not included in this recall. If necessary, the agency says that it could hold a public hearing and require Graco to add the remaining infant seats to the recall.
This is not Graco's first time in the hot seat of a federal regulatory agency. In 2005, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) imposed a record $4 million penalty against Graco for failing to inform the government in a timely manner about more than 12 million products that posed a danger to young children nationwide.
UPDATE: On March 7, 2014, Graco informed the NHTSA that it would be including an additional 403,222 child safety seats in this recall, including certain model year 2006 through 2014 Argos 70 Elite, Ready Ride, Step 2, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, My Size 70, Head Wise 70 with Safety Surround, Nautilus 3-in-1, Smart Seat with Safety Surround, and Nautilus Plus car seats. The recall now affects a total of 4,176,601 child safety seats.
"While the addition of these 400,000 safety seats to the recall is definitely a step in the right direction, this still leaves more than 1.3 million Graco car seats unrecalled that use the same defective buckle as the previously recalled seats," NCCC President Sandra Bullock said in a statement. "We continue to urge Graco to do the right thing and recall all car seats that could be affected by this defective buckle."