Yesterday evening, I heard that the lovely and relatively expensive pushchair I own may potentially amputate the tops of my toddler’s fingers if he plays with the folding mechanism.
The press coverage reported that in the USA, a special hinge-covering kit would be made available to all affected buggy owners.
I – along with probably every other Maclaren-owning parent in the EU – started trying to find out if:
i) the US buggies were differently constructed to ours;
ii) the hinge covers would be made avialable to us too.
Tonight we found out. According to the BBC, Maclaren has decided that we consumers in the UK (and indeed the rest of the EU) will just get extra advice because they are compliant with existing EU safety standards. We’ve no idea whether these safety standards are tougher than those in the USA, but either way, the buggies are the same but apparently require a physical amendment in the USA but nothing extra in the EU/UK.
Maclaren say that there have been many fewer cases in the EU than in the USA despite much higher sales.
But there may be more to it than that.
There’s a cultural issue here – are Europeans (and Brits in particular) more likely to assume that an accident is just an accident and not something to sue over?
A friend has put forward the following alternative theory for why there’s no action being taken here:
In the UK we have a claim limit so unlike in US where this company could be sued for millions, here you can only get few quid.
Thus since the financial risk is lower, there is no point in spending the money on correcting it, who cares about customers who have already paid their money.
Actually, I want this to be untrue. I really don’t want to believe this of a reputable British company. It’d be nice if they’d take action to prove that they do care about the children whose wellbeing we put into their hands whenever we use their products.
In the USA, consumer law appears to have been effectively privatised – if something goes wrong, you sue.
We seem to be heading that way here too – look at the rise of accident and personal injury law firms. you can’t even do a quiz on facebook without an advert for them appearing these days! But we are not as far down the personal line as the USA.
Of course, in the UK we don’t really do class action lawsuits. It’s not the way that our consumer law is set up.
In any case I’m under the impression that class action lawsuits are pretty much a bad thing – that they only benefit those that are able to jump on the bandwagon at the right time rather than all consumers affected overall. But they are there in the USA because of this weakness of consumer law.
It’d be sad indeed if we went for this approach rather than have more general consumer law that was able to helpeveryone affected, not just those able to take legal action.
So, am I a happy Maclaren mummy?
Well, in general I like my Maclaren techno XLR – I bought it because it was light for its size, easy to fold, fitted onto a London bus and easily down the aisle (unlike, say, a bugaboo) and formed part of a travel system with its Recaro car seat which was terribly useful when e.g. going for a dental check-up and needing the baby to stay asleep.
However, I’m on my second XLR already - the first dropped apart in the snow in January this year leaving me to lug it home with my son strapped into a cloth baby carrier around my waist (I’d had it for more than the one year guarantee period and the cost to fix seemed disproportionate in comparison with the price of a new one in a colourway I liked more).
So I was only on two cheers anyway.
Now I’m feeling a bit overlooked and as if the manufacturer takes my future custom for granted.
Finally, how do I know that my son’s going to be safe?
Short answer – as with much in the world of parenting – is that I don’t.
No situation with a child is 100% safe (and even if it is physically safe, you’re probably stunting their emotional development by not allowing them life experiences).
So this is really tricky – he loves his pushchair, and climbs in and out, I’ve tried to stop him attempting to put it up by himself but that’s easier said than done unless you stand guard over the pushchair at all times.
I’ll do my best, of course I will.
But if there’s a little plastic hinge cover that could give me just a little more reassurance and maximise his chances of retaining all his digits, I’d welcome it, please, Maclaren.
Update – apparently trading standards in the UK have said that, as the buggies pass the tests here, there’s nothing that they can do. My point is less that I want trading standards action but that I’d like the little bit of plastic as a matter of goodwill…
Update 2 – and we have it! According to the Times Alphamummy blog, hinge covers are now available…