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.