The Cheat Sheet

Of killer dressers and a dressing down

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on June 29, 2016

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Seems you still have a Conjuring hangover...

Well, I agree the paranormal scare lingers in me; but this is about something plain physical and as mundane as...

...an armchair?

Ha! You’re closer. We’re talking about drawers that play villain in the lives of children and how Ikea, the furniture giant, is being pulled up in the US to admit its design and production faux pas.

I’m curious!

Ikea is recalling 29 million chests and dressers that can easily overturn and trap children under. The Swedish retailer has put out a nicely-worded press release saying the furniture could pose “a tip-over and entrapment hazard that can result in death or injuries to children” if it is not properly fitted to a wall.

Oops! 29 million units of furniture?

Yeah, looks like this is going to be the big daddy of all consumer product recalls. And this has not been an easy move; it comes after a long spell of disputes, cases and public outrage. Reports say these faulty products killed six and injured nearly 40 children in the past 27 years. The recall applies to nearly half the population of chests and dressers Ikea sells in the US. And, interestingly, the line-up includes eight million chests and dressers belonging to the retailer’s immensely popular Malm line. Ikea reportedly got reports of 41 tip-over incidents involving this brand of chests and dressers. The most recent death came in February when a 22-month-old boy died in Minneapolis when a drawer fell on him.

Shocking!

You bet! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission, an independent regulator that scans risks from consumer products, has been saying the Ikea furniture didn’t meet the country’s voluntary performance standards. The CPSC is really worried about consumer products companies flouting guidelines, leading to fatal accidents. It says at least one child dies every two weeks in a tip-over-related incident involving furniture or television sets. To be fair, Ikea joined hands with the CPSC in July 2015 and started a campaign asking customers to secure their chests and dressers. The retailer has been giving wall anchors in its stores. Yet, more accidents, some fatal, have been reported. Ikea has so far distributed some 300,000 wall anchors. But that covers just 1 per cent of the total units sold.

But what’s Ikea’s take on this defect?

Well, the company says the chests and dressers are not meant for free-standing. They must be hooked to the wall. Ikea’s US president Lars Petersson feels we should create a culture of attaching chests of drawers — which he calls a tempting playground for kids — to the wall. The company has asked consumers to return their products. They will refund them or will fix the dressers to the wall.

But is this limited to the US?

It appears not. Ikea’s Canada unit has recalled similar risky chests. The CPSC says Ikea sells nearly seven million dressers and chests in Canada.

Experts say consumers in other markets where Ikea sells might also come up with similar requests, in the wake of the US developments. Ikea has not yet commented on how much this mammoth exercise will cost it.

Okay, will this affect its prospects in India?

Well, as you know, consumer safety is often taken for a ride in this market and lax rules make matters worse. Ikea might not face any legal issues here, but might face some consumer distrust.

In 2013 Ikea received the government’s nod for its ₹10,500-crore plan to open retail stores. So, its potential consumers will surely be watching closely how it is going to deal with the tip-over worries in the US. Because nobody wants an Ikea to change life the wrong way!

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Published on June 29, 2016
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