April 17, 2015 — After delaying a recall of about 4 million car seats with defective buckles, federal safety officials have ordered Graco to pay at least $10 million in fines and steps to improve child safety.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the penalty last month after opening an investigation in December.
The problem is that the buckles could become progressively sticker and even impossible to open due to inevitable contamination with food and/or beverages. Graco started receiving complaints about the problem in 2009 and provided instructions on how to clean the buckles in 2012.
However, they did not report the defect to federal officials. Failure to report a defect within five business days can lead to a $35 million fine.
Must Spend $7 Million to Improve Safety
Now, Graco must pay a $3 million civil penalty and spend at least $7 million to meet the following obligations over the next five years:
- Improving its assessment and identification of potential safety defects.
- Creating a scientifically tested program to increase effectiveness of child seat registration programs.
- Revising its procedures for addressing consumer safety complaints and speed the recall of defective products.
- Launching a campaign to disseminate safety messages to parents and caregivers by producing media products to incorporate in child safety campaigns.
Graco Fought Recalls on Infant Car Seats
Graco initially refused to recall 1.9 million infant seats with the same buckle design, arguing that the seat could be removed from a car by detaching it at the base. However, Graco ultimately relented and included the infant seats in a recall of 4.2 million car seats, the largest-ever car seat recall.
Graco denies that any injuries or deaths have been caused by the buckles. However, they settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of a 2 year-old girl who died in a vehicle fire in 2011. Bystanders and the girl’s mother said they were unable to free her from the car seat.
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