December 2, 2014 — The federal government says it will investigate whether Graco delayed a recall of over 6 million car seats with defective buckles, according to the New York Times.
The harness-buckles are easily contaminated with spilled food and beverages. Over time, the buckles can get progressively stickier and may be impossible to open in an emergency.
Graco says no children have been injured, but they agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the family of a 2 year-old girl who died in a car fire in Los Angeles. The girl’s mother and a bystander were unable to remove her from the car seat due to a defective buckle.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says Graco was aware of complaints involving defective buckles in 2009, and started taking steps to address the problem in 2012.
When the NHTSA demanded a recall of the car seats, Graco fought the agency for months. In February and March 2014, Graco recalled 4.2 million child car seats and booster seats. However, they did not recall 1.9 million infant seats with the same buckle until July 2014.
Federal safety regulations require manufacturers to report safety problems to the NHTSA within five business days, or face a civil fine up to $35 million. Some lawmakers are calling for a significant increase in this fine, with consumer advocates calling it a “slap on the wrist.”
In 2005, Graco paid a $4 million penalty for failing to quickly report safety hazards on more than 12 million products that pose a danger to young children.
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