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Family battles must be heard over car seat issues

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

They are intended to protect children when traveling by car, and a faulty vehicle could cause serious injury in the event of an accident.

Jasmine Pruden thought her three-year-old son Imrie’s seat was faulty.

“I felt like I was putting my son in danger every time we were in a car,” she said.

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

“We always had to use two elbows and one hand on the edge of the car seat to tighten the adjuster,” Pruden said.

A loose harness strap is a red safety flag.

Former cop and forensic investigator Bruce Wilson says the tightness of the harness is critically important for the child restraint to do its job.

“The biggest risk we have for a loose harness is (that) during an impact, the child will come out of their harness and be thrown out of their seat,” he said.

Pruden purchased 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, it had a 10-year lifespan, a two-year warranty, and it could work as a rear-facing seat for a long time.

Waka Kotahi recommends keeping your baby in a rear-facing child seat until they are at least two years old, depending on their height and weight.

Despite the good specs, according to Pruden, it was unfit for use because she couldn’t strap Imrie securely into the seat.

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

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

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

Although she acknowledged that the seat was dirty, she felt that Nuna dismissed her concerns about the faulty harness, so she asked Wilson for a second opinion.

Wilson says Pruden’s was a typical seat and had the typical mess of a seat that’s been owned for three years. He said the problems with the seat weren’t due to dirt, but rather a design flaw.

Baby on the Move initially rejected Pruden’s request for a refund because the seat was not covered by its two-year warranty.

But the consumer warranty law states that products must be free from minor defects, safe to use, and last a reasonable amount of time.

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

Designer Baby Brands claims to take product safety very seriously and that Nuna baby gear is thoroughly tested before leaving the factory and regularly evaluated by accredited, independent laboratories.

This sticks to the claim that Pruden’s problems with the car seat are due to dirt.

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

“We accept Designer Baby Brand‘s conclusion that all issues were caused solely by a lack of regular cleaning,” it read.

He understands that Pruden was unhappy, and that might be clearer around the term “regular cleaning.” Baby On the Move is soon launching a campaign on this subject.

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

Pruden received the cost of replacing the car seat and the cost of Wilson’s report.