April 17, 2015 — Safety regulators have ordered Graco to pay at least $10 million for being too slow to report complaints or issue recalls for about 4 million car seats with defective buckles.
Graco has been fined $3 million an additional $7 million penalty “unless they spend at least the same amount on new steps to improve child safety,” according to an announcement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to the agency, those obligations include:
“Graco will create a plan and procedures for addressing certain targeted performance requirements, which may include methods to increase effectiveness of consumer product registration of car seats, which allows parents to be notified of defects, identifying potential safety trends affecting car seats industry wide and launching a child safety awareness campaign.”
The problem is that the seats had buckles that could get progressively stickier over time, or even be impossible to open, due to progressive contamination with food and beverages in the child’s lap. Some parents had to cut the straps on the car seat to free a child.
The NHTSA said Graco knew about the problem as early as 2009 and provided instructions on how to clean the buckle in 2012. Federal law requires reporting of safety defects within five business days, or face up to a $35 million fine.
Last year, the agency demanded that Graco recall 4.2 million car seats, infant seats, and booster seats. Graco initially refused to recall the infant seats, arguing that parents could detach the seat at the base rather than using the buckle. However, they eventually relented and recalled the infant seats in July 2014.
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