Mattel's Reputation With The CPSC Is Officially Crappy

Mattel is being investigated (again) by the CPSC over the timeliness of its latest batch of recalls. According to the WSJ, Mattel knows it is required to inform the agency within 24 hours of receiving information about a defect that could cause injury—it just doesn’t do it because it thinks its not fair.

Mattel Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Eckert said in an interview that the company discloses problems on its own timetable because it believes both the law and the commission’s enforcement practices are unreasonable. Mattel said it should be able to evaluate hazards internally before alerting any outsiders, regardless of what the law says.

By mandating that companies immediately report any incident that could conceivably expose a hazard, the commission’s “standard might apply to almost anything,” Mr. Eckert said. “It’s very easy for anyone to apply the word ‘could’ backward,” he added.

The CPSC doesn’t agree. “It’s a statute; it’s clear,” said Julie Vallese, the commission’s spokeswoman, referring to the 24-hour rule. Yet enforcing such rules poses a challenge for the small agency, which has limited resources and is only authorized to impose fines of less than $2 million against companies that Ms. Vallese says “think they can get away with delaying reporting.”

Most recently the CPSC fined Mattel’s Fisher-Price division almost a million dollars for delaying reports that a popular toy was causing injuries for 7 months. The company denies any wrongdoing.

And then there were the fires. Mattel’s popular Power Wheels toys (we were never allowed to have one growing up and are still bitter about it) started catching fire in 1995. Two years later, after the CPSC finally hears about the fires independently, Mattel reports what they already know. In Oct 1998, 10 million Power Wheels toys were recalled for fire hazard, 3 years after the initial reports. The above photo shows pictures of a garage that was destroyed by a Power Wheels toy that caught fire 2 hours after it was last played with, according to the WSJ

“The agency has a real problem in finding out about dangerous products. They know after [company] lawyers might know — that’s after a death or injury,” said Pamela Gilbert, the former executive director of the commission.

Safety Agency, Mattel Clash Over Disclosures [Wall Street Journal]
(Photo:Sonya DeAngelo)

PREVIOUSLY: Fisher-Price Fined $975,000 for Failing to Report a Serious Choking Hazard With A Popular Toy


Edit Your Comment

  1. Zgeg says:

    Yeah, And I feel like I should be able to do 90 miles an hour backwards through a school zone regardless of what the law says….

  2. Buran says:

    I don’t like having to pay some of the taxes I have to pay. I don’t like the fact that my cable company can force my Tivo to tune to a channel of its choosing for emergency TESTS that aren’t real emergencies. I don’t like the fact that big business can dodge paying taxes by charging itself rent.

    But guess what?


    Don’t like it? Tough luck.

  3. Buran says:

    Yeah, and Circuit City should be allowed to ignore Constitutional rights, illegally arrest and detain people, and cops should be allowed to arrest people on trumped-up charges based on cops demanding things they by law cannot demand.

  4. Buran says:

    @Buran: … I swear I forced a refresh twice before giving up and posting a new comment. Can we have the old comment system back, the one that actually worked? Please?

  5. @Buran: Don’t post a ‘new’ comment. Post exactly what you said the first time and the system will tell you if it is a duplicate post and prevent it from going up twice.

    It does require copying your post someplace else before hitting submit, but it works.

  6. Buran says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Oh? I did not know that. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Egakino says:

    Good lord i didn’t know Mattel made hot wheels that big, either that or the garage is tiny ><;

  8. bohemian says:

    The recent round of recalled toys was enough to make me alter what our kids will be getting for various upcoming presents. This just sealed it.

    They are at that age that toys are becoming less cool anyway. Sounds like a good time to move on.

  9. killavanilla says:

    Um. Punish the company, parental types. Don’t buy Mattel and let them know you won’t buy until they comply with the CPSC.
    Done and done. The market takes care of itself!
    Here’s what will likely happen instead:
    People will still fill their carts with mattel’s crap and blame the government.
    That’s just sad.

  10. marsneedsrabbits says:

    News flash: right now, even the local thrift stores won’t accept or sell Mattel toys. They have signs up at the front door & on the toys shelves stating as much. That’s how bad it is.
    The last time I was in a group of mothers, they discussed not buying Mattel because of the recent safety issues.
    The latest statement is going to go over like… well, like a lead balloon.
    Robert Eckert seriously overestimates his company’s clout and importance in the marketplace.

  11. revmatty says:

    Hmmm. Something is missing here. Oh yea, why are we blaming Mattel when it’s clearly China’s fault.

  12. Buran says:

    @revmatty: Because they failed to make sure their suppliers were up to par.

  13. legotech says:

    Its not entirely that they failed to make sure their suppliers were up to standard, in the case of the lead paint it was one batch of paint that the guy bought from his brother in law instead of the regular approved supplier, the number of toys effected was the equivelent of around 2 hours on an assmbly line.

    US Company A (in this case Mattel) goes to China and looks at the factory and approves the materials and the process and then lets the factory do their thing.

    The factory either 1) waits until the company leaves and do things however they can in order to save themselves money or 2) sends part of the order over to another factory around the corner that Mattel doesn’t know about, never inspected and never approved.

    So when the factory sends stuff to be tested, they send boxes from the approved factory while shipping stuff from both factories to the stores.

    Its sort of like any boss/employee relationship the boss says DO IT LIKE THIS and the employees say that sucks, and spend more time trying to figure out how to do it some other way than it would take to do it the approved way to begin with.

    Yes, Mattel should be more vigilant (which they are doing, they are finding more screw ups) but the factories shouldn’t be screwing around with the specs either.


  14. BenMitchell says:

    @legotech: Umm – AMEN!

    So long as Mattel continues to purchase from China – I’ll not be xmas shopping from them for my child. Yea I actually check where my stuff is made. My wife and I had our first kid recently and several of the items were made in China. Everything that was not made in the USA or Canada (The Bottles and Chew Toys strange enough were from our northern brothers) went back to the store for stuff made in the USA. It worked out to be about the same on most items, except the clothes which cost me a little more (like 50$) because they were name brand items :P China not so cheap as our goods after all!

  15. revmatty says:

    @legotech: Just as a point of interest, several of the stories on here as well as comments from the head of the CPSC indicate that Mattel has had problems of this sort for decades regardless of what country the products were being manufactured in. Seems to me the real problem is Mattel pushing the manufacturers to cut costs beyond the point where the manufacturer can earn a profit. Note also that Wal-Mart is famous for doing this and I expect the number of product recalls for products sold at Wal-Mart to skyrocket in the next 5 years.

  16. JustinAche says:

    @legotech: It doesn’t matter who’s TECHNICALLY at fault for the lead (China, their supplier, ect.), they are responsible because they are selling the product. They could choose to have it built anywhere in the world, and they chose China to cut costs. They could build in France for all I care, but if they sell a defective shoddy product that can poison and kill people, they are still responsible, no matter who made it. They designed it, they gave specs, they should have a local rep on site at all times, I think. I know Toyota USA, Nintendo of America, and other foreign companies based out of Japan have actual real live Japanese people here in the US, I don’t see why we can’t have an office of Mattel in Shanghai or Taiwan, who have to go to work in the other countries to make sure the shit’s being built correctly