CPSC Broken, Can't Issue Involuntary Recall Of Dangerous ATV For Children

Meet the Kazuma Meerkat 50 Youth All-Terrain Vehicle. It has no front brakes, no parking brake and can be started in gear. It is meant for 6 to 11 year-olds. Why isn’t it being recalled?

Because the company that makes the Meerkat isn’t willing to cooperate, and the CPSC has no power to involuntarily recall unsafe products. Why not?

The CPSC has been operating without a quorum ever since last July when former chairman Hal Stratton left. In January, the agency’s powers were limited until the vacancy is filled. President Bush tried to fill it… with Michael Baroody, a lobbyist for the National Manufacturer’s Association. This nomination was somewhat like asking a former PETA lobbyist to run KFC, but less tasty.

Baroody withdrew his nomination after intense opposition from consumer groups and, ahem, blogs, but another nomination has yet to be made. From Consumer Reports blog:

This week, the CPSC issued a press release saying the Texas-based manufacturer “has impeded CPSC’s efforts to protect the safety of children, by refusing to implement a corrective action plan for this ATV.”

Fortunately, although the agency can’t issue a recall, the lack of quorum has not kept the CPSC from publicly disclosing its concerns. In fact, the agency put out an unusually strong warning about the ATV model, saying “children are at risk of injury or death due to multiple safety defects with this off-road vehicle.” The agency added that “the risk with these ATVs is severe because these vehicles are intended for children. In many cases, youth riders are just learning how to operate an ATV and may not have the experience necessary to help them avoid hazards associated with this product’s defects.”

Fantastic.—MEGHANN MARCO

The CPSC’s ATV non-recall: A dangerous precedent for a hamstrung agency [Consumer Reports]
(Photo: CPSC)

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  1. Falconfire says:

    Well thats just fucking stupid.. There should be a provision for a acting chairman. Typical government stupidity.

  2. lore says:

    Although this post talks about the CPSC being broken, shouldn’t we also highlight — separately — the fact that the company that makes the Meerkat is unwilling to cooperate in a recall of a product that is unsafe?

    Come on, Ben – give these guys a call, and use a recording service to give us a play by play!

  3. Erskine says:

    Step 1 – Adopt a child
    Step 2 – Buy Meerkat
    Step 3 – Profit!

  4. bradite says:

    Kazuma is based in China, not in Texas (thats where their US dealer is). My dad bought one of their ATVs, and yeah, the quality is very much different than say a Honda that cost 5 times as much. I didn’t feel very safe riding it.

  5. lore says:

    @bradite: Well, that explains everything. If they can’t even distinguish between something that’s safe to put into dog food or toothpaste, how can they be expected to create a working and safe ATV? Man, I wonder if my dress shirt is made out of some toxic asbestos material now. I can see it now: “80% cotton, 20% asbestos. Machine wash warm. If wrinkled, throw in oven. Fire safe.”

  6. Ass_Cobra says:

    If a kid gets killed on one of these things hopefully it will be a very very long time before we see a wildly inapropriate candidate trying to be strong armed into an important position. Good god will our lust for poorly made, cheap goods ever end. Maybe municipalities could enforce child endangerment laws on parents that get their kids one of these things.

  7. @Erskine:

    “The gates of hell are open night and day;
    Smooth the descent, and easy is the way”

    Thanks for the first funny comment I’ve read this morning.

  8. Msgundam84 says:

    @lore:

    I agree. Ben should give those guys a call, record it, and then post it here on the site.

  9. feralparakeet says:

    @Falconfire: What’s stupid isn’t the fact that the CPSC needs a quorum to issue an involuntary recall, it’s the fact that the Bush administration failed to fill the empty seat in a timely manner with someone who could survive the advice and consent of the senate. Also, I have a feeling that if you take a look at the authorizing legislation, you’ll probably find plenty of provisions for acting chairs. In fact, if you look at the CPSC’s website, you’ll notice that commissioner Nancy Nord is acting as interim chairman – the problem isn’t that there isn’t someone in charge right now, it’s that there are too many vacancies that haven’t been filled. I will spare you any further civics lesson, but suffice it to say that requiring a quorum is a GOOD thing, even if it means that at times things can’t get done. Without a quorum, 2 comissioners could show up in the boardroom one night, leaving the others in the dark as they vote and create rules on their favorite interest group’s issues. Democracy good, quorum good.

    @lore: Your point is valid as it applies to the government as a whole, but not the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The FDA, an agency within the department of health and human services, is responsible for identifying problems in the chinese food and toothpaste (other agencies within the department of agriculture also maintain some responsibility for food safety, and I believe that the fish and wildlife service, part of the department of the interior, also have some related tasks).
    By contrast, the CPSC is an independent commission that doesn’t operate under the auspices of any cabinet-level department. It is charged with ensuring the safety of consumer products, like cars, toys, carseats, and yes, ATVs. And they’re very good at issuing recalls for things within their jurisdiction. But, they can only addresss their jurisdiction, which they discuss here:
    http://www.cpsc.gov/federal.html

    At any rate, my point is that we should give these folks a break. They’re doing everything they can. They’re kicking and screaming to get the word out about a dangerous product, even when legal rules keep their hands tied from issuing a recall with the lack of a quorum. These guys are doing the right thing in the face of a harsh political environment, and if you ask me, whoever’s putting out these press releases deserves a freakin medal.

  10. Erskine says:

    @something_amazing:

    “But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
    In this the task and mighty labor lies.”

    Let us go singing as far as we go: the road will be less tedious.

  11. RandomHookup says:

    I was about to suggest that they go after the retailers, because they are much more sensitive to public pressure, but we saw how that worked with the Nazi t-shirts.

  12. jgkelley says:

    “This nomination was somewhat like asking a former PETA lobbyist to run KFC, but less tasty. “

    In my humble opinion, that would actually result in a better, safer product for consumers. I think a closer analogy would be “This nomination was somewhat like asking a former KFC lobbyist to head PETA.”

  13. Brian Gee says:

    Mehgann, flip your analogy around and it would work better. A PETA lobbyist might run KFC just fine, and would surely not have the farm workers drop-kicking chickens. At worst, they might make a vegan fast food restaurant and go out of business, but there’s still plenty of competitors.

    On the other hand, put one of those KFC farm workers in charge of PETA, and we’d probably get a Spotted Owl Cheeseburger on the dollar menu by year’s end (“Limited Time Only!”).

  14. synergy says:

    Darwinism in action, I say.