John R. Yannaccone, P.E., Senior Mechanical Engineer
What do wallets, purses, jewelry, and child car seats have in common? All are on a list of counterfeit items available for purchase. That’s right – child car seats have recently been added to the list per reports of parents and caregivers. While buying a knock-off Coach bag or Rolex might mean you overpaid for the item, the purchase of a counterfeit car seat can place your child at risk.
As with other products, counterfeit car seats are not manufactured to the same quality and standards of the genuine product. This includes poor fitting and flimsy parts; missing components traditionally found on car seats; hazardous chemicals in the fabric covers, and plastic parts in places where metal components are typically used. While these counterfeit car seats may have a similar appearance to the genuine car seats, it is likely they weren’t tested to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, may perform poorly in a crash and place child occupants at increased risk of injury.
While some of the counterfeit car seats lack the labels used on genuine car seats, it is likely some include similar or identical labels to those used by manufacturers. They may include an actual model number from a car seat manufacturer. So how do you recognize a counterfeit car seat in order to assure the seat you are purchasing / using is safe?
- Purchase the item from a reputable source. While some of the counterfeit seats have been reported to be sold at or near the price of approved car seats, others are offered at significant discounts. As the adage goes, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When making a purchase, check the manufacturer’s web site to see if the seat’s model number matches up with the product you think you are buying.
- When the car seat you have purchased arrives, take note of how it was packaged and/or shipped. With a few exceptions, most car seats come in boxes clearly identifying the manufacturer, have the model number and date of manufacture on the outside of the box, and include the car seat with a label matching the model number found on the outside of the box.
The label should also indicate the date the car seat was manufactured. Additional labels should be placed on the seat containing the height and weight limits for the car seat, as well as basic use instructions. All car seats in the US are required to come with an owner’s manual and registration card included in the box. If the car seat is missing any of these items, you should question its authenticity. If you have a model number and date of manufacture, contacting the manufacturer is an appropriate way to determine if the car seat was manufactured by them. In addition, the manufacturer would be able to register the car seat and supply an owner’s manual or other missing components.
Should you be involved in a case involving a child in a car seat, an inspection of the child seat should identify if it is genuine or counterfeit, as well as any issues related to the use and performance of the car seat in the crash.
John R. Yannaccone, P.E., Senior Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, Inc., can be reached via email at experts@forensicDJS.com or via phone at 215-659-2010.