'Cartoonishly evil': How Trump appointees stepped in to thwart a stroller recall — even after kids were injured

'Cartoonishly evil': How Trump appointees stepped in to thwart a stroller recall — even after kids were injured
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

In a "cartoonishly evil" move that critics warned could set a worrying precedent for corporate regulation, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Trump appointees at the Consumer Product Safety Commission blocked a recall of jogging strollers that agency staff believed had injured both adults and children.

"Beyond the TV headlines, this is the damage that the Trump administration is doing," tweeted Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) "It's simply heartless."

"The crashes were brutal," the Post reported, citing government documents about the investigation into Britax Child Safety's BOB strollers, as well as interviews with former and current commission employees. As the newspaper outlined:

With no warning, the front wheel on the three-wheeled BOB jogging strollers fell off, causing the carriages to careen and even flip over. Adults shattered bones. They tore ligaments. Children smashed their teeth. They gashed their faces. One child bled from his ear canal.

Commission staffers, according to the Post, "collected 200 consumer-submitted reports from 2012 to 2018 of spontaneous failure of the stroller wheel, which is secured to a front fork by a quick-release lever, like on a bicycle. Nearly 100 adults and children were injured."

In 2017, the agency requested that Britax voluntarily recall nearly 500,000 BOB strollers—but the company refused, prompting the commission to file a lawsuit to force a recall in February of 2018.

"As Republicans assumed day-to-day control of the agency, eventually earning a majority on the agency's oversight commission for the first time in more than a decade," the Post explained, "the agency's Republican chairwoman kept Democratic commissioners in the dark about the stroller investigation and then helped end the case in court."

In November, Britax and the commission reached a settlement "approved by a 3-to-2 commission vote reflecting the new Republican majority," under which the company would offer replacement parts or discounts to certain consumers, and launch an public safety information campaign, but not a recall.

Britax, in a statement announcing the lawsuit's resolution, reiterated that "BOB jogging strollers are safe when used as instructed and we stand behind the quality of our brand." The company put out a safety video in January.

In an unusual dissent (pdf), the agency's two Democratic commissioners, Robert Adler and Elliot Kaye, denounced the notice that Britax intended to share with consumers as "aggressively misleading." Kaye also told the Post, "Information campaigns are usually garbage."

Consumer advocacy groups Kids in Danger (KID) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) were also critical. In a joint statement after the announcement, they said the settlement "is vastly too weak and fails to protect consumers."

Warning that the deal set "a bad precedent," KID executive director Nancy Cowles explained that "time limits on safety campaigns and corrective actions that aren't called recalls will limit attention from consumers, and consumers with older products will be prevented from participating in the limited replacement program."

Critics worry this isn't just one "sickening" case of President Donald Trump's administration prioritizing corporate interests over those of the public. As the Post pointed outboth the Democratic commissioners and consumer advocates are concerned the process with Britax will "become a model for settling future product disputes."

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