Graco Children’s Products agreed to pay a $10 million fine for taking too long to tell parents that the buckles on more than 4 million of the company’s car seats could become stuck and trap the kids inside.
The settlement closes a U.S. investigation started last year into whether Graco failed to alert authorities and the public quickly enough to the defect and issue a recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it ended up being the largest ever recall of child seats.
“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,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Friday.
Since last year’s controversies involving the slow responses to a General Motors Co. ignition switch defect and a deadly flaw in Takata Corp. air bag inflators, the safety agency has become more aggressive in monitoring whether automakers and their suppliers are complying with U.S. safety laws. Honda Motor Co. in January agreed to a $70 million fine, the largest ever levied by the agency, for failing to report injuries and warranty claims linked to potential safety defects.
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In the Graco case, the agency said consumers filed hundreds of complaints describing difficulty getting their infants and toddlers out of jammed car seats, pleading with regulators to get the seats fixed.
“My husband is a very big, strong man, and he couldn’t get the buckle to release,” wrote one mother. “He had to get channel lock pliers out of his truck and squeeze the buckle with it till it broke to get my 2-year-old daughter out.”
Graco must pay $3 million immediately to the U.S. government and $7 million in five years unless it spends that amount on steps to improve child safety, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. The company, in a separate statement, said it would comply.
“We have worked closely with NHTSA throughout this process and regret that we fell short of NHTSA’s expectations for data collection and reporting procedures,” Graco president Laurel Hurd said.