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Britax missed deadline to send some notices about its BOB strollers, despite deal with federal agency

In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed a popular jogging stroller made by Britax Child Safety dangerous. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post, Photo: Dustin Franz/For Washington Post/The Washington Post)

Britax Child Safety failed to send out timely notices to resellers to alert them to a safety campaign for its popular BOB jogging strollers, as required by Britax’s settlement with U.S. regulators, according to a Washington Post survey of resellers.

Britax was also required to send notices about the safety campaign to retailers and consumers, according to the settlement. The company said those notices were sent out on time, but two consumers and one major retailer, REI, said they can find no sign of ever having received the notices.

Potential problems with the notices were discovered by The Post and come less than a week after an investigation revealed how regulators last year backed off from a threat to recall the BOB stroller despite hundreds of accidents.

Federal lawmakers now are scrutinizing what happened. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Monday she is asking for documents from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission related to the case, joining a similar request from two other senators made late last week. On Tuesday, a House subcommittee held an oversight hearing on the agency.

The notices were required under a lawsuit settlement between the company and the safety agency. Nearly 100 children and adults had been injured in BOB stroller crashes from 2012 to 2018 caused by the front wheel falling off the three-wheeled strollers, according to the agency. The agency sued in administrative court last year to force a recall of many BOB strollers made before 2016. Britax countered that its strollers were safe to use as instructed.

Britax in November reached a settlement with the agency that allowed the company to avoid a recall in exchange for conducting an online education campaign about how to safely operate its BOB strollers. Consumer advocates and two of the agency’s five commissioners warned that the deal was inadequate.

After hundreds of crashes, this stroller faced recall. Then Trump appointees stepped in.

As part of the deal, Britax agreed to launch an online campaign on Jan. 10 with a video to teach consumers how to correctly attach the stroller’s front wheel and to offer some consumers a different way to attach the front wheel or a 20 percent discount on a new stroller. 

And the settlement required Britax to notify consumers, retailers and resellers about the education campaign no later than Jan. 10.

When The Post asked Britax about the notices, the company said it notified resellers such as Goodwill and eBay only on Friday — nearly three months late and one day after The Post first contacted the company to inquire about the notices.

The National Association of Resale Professionals, a trade group, said it received its notice by email Friday.

But Goodwill — made up of 155 U.S. organizations — “was not aware of any local Goodwill in the network receiving a notice,” said the nonprofit’s spokeswoman, Savanna Mickens. It’s possible someone in its network received the notice, “but we have no knowledge of that taking place,” she said.

EBay said in a statement, “We were not able to locate a notice being sent to us.” 

The safety agency said it had no idea this was happening.

“The agency had no reason to believe that the firm was not complying with the consent agreement,” agency spokeswoman Patty Davis said in a statement. “It is the firm’s responsibility under the terms of the consent agreement to do what the Commission has ordered them to do.”

Britax said in a statement that it complied with the settlement. 

Edward Krenik, a lobbyist working for Britax, said the delay in reseller notices was caused by the government shutdown that began late last year and because the safety agency did not respond to the company’s request for wording changes. The shutdown ended Jan. 25.

Recalls for risky products are on the honor system during federal shutdown

The wording dispute centered on a single line in the resellers’ notice that Britax wanted to include, and the agency rejected. Neither the company nor the agency would say what the line was.

“We are working cooperatively with the government under our settlement agreement,” Krenik said.

Two consumers — both of whom had contacted Britax previously about front-wheel detachments — said they, too, never received notices.

Outdoor retailing giant REI said it cannot find any email from Britax about the education campaign.

Buy Buy Baby did not respond to multiple inquiries from The Post about the notice. 

Target declined to comment.

Critics of the Britax settlement said what happened with the notices highlights the differences between an education campaign and a recall.

Many consumers and retailers know what a product recall is, after years of regulators publicizing problems with products.

REI said it has a recall procedure that includes posting notices in stores and online. But it is less clear what to do with an education campaign. 

“This is why it’s important to call it what it is, and that’s a recall,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of the advocacy group Kids in Danger.

EBay said that although it couldn’t find Britax’s notice, The Post’s inquiry spurred it to contact sellers of used BOB strollers and “ask them to inform their buyers about the BOB Info Campaign.”

Britax’s settlement requires it to file quarterly updates with the agency on how its education campaign is going.

The first one is due Wednesday.