Oversight Subcommittee Investigation Reveals Top Booster Seat Manufacturers Knowingly Misled American Consumers on Safety

Dec 10, 2020
Press Release

 

Washington, D.C. (Dec. 10, 2020)—Today, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, and Subcommittee Member Katie Porter released a staff report detailing the findings of the Subcommittee’s investigation into concerns about the safety of child booster seats marketed in the United States.

 

The staff report, “Booster Seat Manufacturers Give Parents Dangerous Advice: Misleading Claims, Meaningless Safety Testing, and Unsafe Recommendations to Parents About When They Can Transition Their Children from Car Seats to Booster Seats,” is based on a review of thousands of new documents, videos, and images from seven of the nation’s largest booster seat manufacturers:  Artsana (seller of Chicco brand), Baby Trend, Britax, Dorel, Evenflo, Graco, and KidsEmbrace.

 

Subcommittee Chairman Krishnamoorthi issued this statement:

 

“The findings revealed in today’s staff report are nothing short of alarming.  Our investigation uncovered that while our nation’s top manufacturers knew that booster seats are unsafe for children under 40 pounds, they continued to market their use for 30-pound children and unabashedly misled thousands of families with meaningless safety claims about their side-impact testing.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been asleep at the wheel and allowed size recommendations and side-impact testing to go unregulated—despite repeated calls to act.  The Subcommittee will continue advancing legislation to fill in the gaps on behalf of parents and children.”

 

Rep. Katie Porter issued this statement:

 

“As a mom of three kids, I’m appalled by the Subcommittee’s findings.  Parents should be able to trust that booster seats are correctly labeled and there are protections in place to keep kids safe.  Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is falling short and failing to hold booster seat manufacturers accountable, which is putting countless kids and families at risk.  Chairman Krishnamoorthi and I have been pushing NHTSA for months, and we won’t back down.  Getting this right is a matter of life and death.”

 

Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Maloney issued this statement:

 

“I commend Subcommittee Chair Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Porter on their investigation to uncover the truth on behalf of America’s families.  Parents trust booster seat manufacturers with their most precious cargo.  Today’s staff report is crystal clear:  Congress must intervene.  I look forward to working with Reps. Krishnamoorthi and Porter on the best solutions for our children’s safety in the next Congress.”

 

Documents acquired by the Subcommittee detail the seven manufacturers’ side-impact testing protocols; written results of side-impact tests; video tapes of side-impact tests; and internal communications regarding marketing, instructions, and safety labeling.

 

The Subcommittee’s investigation uncovered:

 

  • The nation’s top booster seat manufacturers have marketed use for 30-pound children, despite knowing that boosters are unsafe for children under 40 pounds;

 

  • Manufacturers’ safety claims are meaningless because they have created their own weak side impact testing conditions that involve no impact, and made standards so low that they pass every time—even when crashes would lead to catastrophic injuries; and

 

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s failure to regulate enables these booster seat companies to mislead consumers about side-impact safety testing and get away with making unfair and deceptive size and weight recommendations that are not reasonably safe.

 

The Subcommittee’s investigation caused Evenflo and Graco to stop marketing their booster seats as safe for 30-pound children.  Recent moves by Artsana indicate it may also be following suit in response to this investigation.  However, Baby Trend and KidsEmbrace continue to unsafely market booster seats for 30-pound children.

 

As the investigation continues, Chairman Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Porter encourage families to share their personal stories about concerns and experience with booster seats on the Subcommittee’s webpage.

 

Click here to read the staff report.

 

Click here to share your family’s personal concerns and experience with booster seats.

 

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Background:

 

On February 12, 2020, Chairman Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Porter launched an investigation into booster seats with a letter to Evenflo Company, Inc. seeking information about its “Big Kid” belt-positioning booster seat following reports that the seats were misleadingly marketed and not safe for children under 40 pounds.

 

On February 14, 2020, Chairman Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Porter expanded the investigation with letters to Artsana, Baby Trend, Britax, Dorel, Graco, and KidsEmbrace.

 

On March 18, 2020, Chairman Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Porter called on NHTSA to:  (1) raise the booster seat weight minimum recommendation from 30 to 40 pounds, (2) require that manufacturers place a clear and conspicuous labels on booster seats, and (3) finalize a federal side-impact test standard for children’s car seats and booster seats. 

 

On November 19, 2020, Chairman Krishnamoorthi and Rep. Porter sent a letter to NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens requesting a staff briefing on proposed improvements to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, which governs children’s car seat and booster seat safety.

 

On December 1, 2020, NHTSA shared in the private briefing with Subcommittee staff that a side-impact testing standard that only focused on occupant retention is not an adequate safety test.  Evenflo and Graco both use an occupant retention standard—if a child-size crash dummy is not ejected in their tests, the companies give themselves passing marks.  NHTSA also shared in the briefing that while it has been very slow to institute a binding 40-pound standard for booster seats, it has hoped that industry would adopt the standard on its own.  

116th Congress