Fair Go

Fair Go: Family battles to be heard over car seat concerns

Car seats are one of the safety devices parents hope they never have to worry about.

They're meant to protect kids while travelling in a car, and a faulty one could cause severe injuries in an accident.

Jasmine Pruden believed her three-year old-son Imrie's seat was faulty.

"I felt like I was putting my son at risk every single time we were in a car," she said.

One of the harness straps was always loose and not snug against Imrie's shoulder. It was also difficult to tighten.

"We've always had to use two elbows and a hand on the edge of the car seat to pull the adjuster tight," Pruden said.

A loose harness strap is a safety red flag.

Ex-cop and crash forensic investigator Bruce Wilson says the tightness of the harness is crucially important for the child restraint to do its job.

"The biggest risk we have for a loose harness is (that) in an impact, the child will actually come out of their harness and be ejected from their seat," he said.

Pruden bought the Nuna Rava convertible car seat in June 2019 from the Baby On The Move store in Hamilton.

It ticked all the boxes for her, but more importantly had a 10-year lifespan, a two-year warranty and it could function as a rear-facing seat for a long time.

Waka Kotahi advises you should keep your baby in a rear-facing child restraint until they're at least two years old, depending on their height and weight.

Despite having the right specifications, according to Pruden it was unfit for purpose because she couldn't safely strap Imrie into the seat.

She took it back to the retailer and asked for a refund. Baby On the Move sent it on to Nuna's New Zealand distributor, Designer Baby Brands (Auckland), to be assessed.

Four weeks later, Nuna's report showed that the harness mechanism was more difficult to tighten and release due to being compromised by the amount of dirt and debris caught in the mechanism.

Basically, the report said that the seat wasn't working because it was dirty, and that Pruden hadn't cleaned it regularly.

While she agrees that the seat was dirty, she felt Nuna had dismissed her concerns about the faulty harness, so she sought a second opinion from Wilson.

Wilson says Pruden's was a typical seat and had the typical amount of messiness for a seat that's been owned for three years. He said the seat's issues were not due to dirtiness, but rather a design flaw.

Baby on the Move initially rejected Pruden's request for a refund because the seat was outside its two-year warranty.

But the Consumer Guarantees Act says products should be free from small faults, be safe to use and last for a reasonable time.

Fair Go sent Wilson's report to Designer Baby Brands and Baby On The Move to get their response.

Designer Baby Brands says it takes product safety very seriously, and that Nuna’s baby gear is extensively tested before it leaves the factory and regularly evaluated by accredited, independent labs.

It sticks to the claim that the issues Pruden had with the car seat are due to dirtiness.

Baby On The Move told Fair Go that the safety of its seats are paramount.

"We accept Designer Baby Brand's conclusion that all of the issues were caused solely by a lack of regular cleaning", it reads.

It does understand that Pruden was not satisfied, and it could be clearer around the term ‘regular cleaning’. Baby On the Move are launching a campaign soon about this.

Pruden and Baby On The Move went to the Disputes Tribunal, and the case was settled.

Pruden has received the replacement cost of the car seat and the cost of Wilson's report.


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