As the result of a complex three-year investigation by Milton Keynes Council Trading Standards, childcare and baby specialist brand Mamas & Papas has been fined £20,000 for distributing unsafe car seats, while Christine Mitchell, Director of distributor Jeenay (UK) Ltd, has been sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment for supplying almost 150,000 of the items between January 2013 and April 2016.
Mamas & Papas-branded Mercury model child car seats were sold in Argos between January 2013 and April 2016, and have since been recalled.
When the Milton Keynes trading standards team tested the seats in a crash simulation with a child-size dummy, they were found to crack and allow excessive head movement, which could result in injuries to a child.
In addition to the £20,000 fine, Mamas & Papas was ordered to pay £50,000 in costs to Milton Keynes Council, while £275,000 of profits from the sale of the items will be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Mitchell will have £236,850 of profits confiscated.
Representatives of Mamas & Papas and Mitchell had both pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to the supply of unsafe car seats, an offence under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, which ensures that products placed on the market or supplied by producers and distributors are safe.
Sue Crawley, Head of Milton Keynes Council Trading Standards said: “We spent a lot of time investigating this case and .”
Judge Rochford, who presided over the hearing, said: “No parent will compromise the safety of their child. They are entitled to expect products they buy to accord with safety regulations. In relation to Mamas & Papas Ltd, a well-known and reputable brand, they can expect the standards to be as high as they can be. Both defendants have let down parents and put children at risk.
“By October 2015 Christine Mitchell was well aware of safety issues and chose not to act upon them properly. She was wholly indifferent to whether seats were safe in terms of the R44 [European car seat safety approval] regime but also in terms of the safety of children. She was content for corners to be cut.”
“As for M&P they entrusted Christine Mitchell and assumed R44 to be watertight but systems were not in place or operating properly, and their failures have led to unsafe products being placed on the market.
“The Courts need to send a message that those responsible for safety carry a high level of responsibility if regulations are breached of which the Courts must treat seriously and punish accordingly.”
Consumers still using one of the seats should stop doing so immediately and return it to Argos for a full refund, or call them on 0345 640 2020.