The BOB Stroller Safety Controversy, Explained

For many outdoorsy parents, a good running stroller ranks high on the list of must-have items. And BOB Gear’s collapsible, off-road models are some of the most popular. But a recent report by The Washington Post may change that.

On Tuesday, the paper released an investigative article detailing a battle from early 2017 through late 2018 between the stroller company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission over allegedly defective front-wheel attachments. As outlined in the story, the CPSC had 200 documented consumer complaints of front wheels spontaneously falling off various models of BOB strollers, causing all manner of injuries to both parents and children, from cuts to broken bones. The culprit: the quick-release lever that secured the wheel to the front fork. “The quick release is a metal skewer with a curved handle on one end and a metal nut on the other that tightens the wheel to the stroller fork,” the Post wrote. “The stroller’s instructions told parents that ‘less than a half turn’ of the quick release can be ‘the difference between safe and unsafe clamping force.’”

But the company never issued a formal recall.

Why? First, BOB’s parent company, Britax, refused, claiming that the stroller was not defective and that the company had already done enough to ensure safety by educating customers about how to properly tighten the quick-release lever (in 2013, it released a safety video and added safety messaging to its product tags). Then, the Post uncovered, newly appointed Republican CPSC chairwoman Ann Marie Buerkle prevented staffers from further pressuring BOB into agreeing to a voluntary recall and kept information of the stroller complaints secret from Democratic commissioners. The Post wrote that Buerkle denied all of these claims and declined an interview.

Ultimately, the commission voted to sue Britax, BOB’s parent company. “The agency wanted the defective strollers to be repaired or replaced at Britax’s cost and for the company to launch a campaign to warn the public about the stroller’s dangers,” the Post wrote. “This is how recalls are typically handled.” But just after the lawsuit was filed, an additional Republican CPSC commissioner nominee gained Senate approval, altering the balance of power from a three-to-one Democrat-Republican split to a two-two split. A vote on subpoenaing top BOB employees—to gain essential information for the agency’s lawsuit—ended in a stalemate. The case languished.

In the end, the commission gained another Republican member and voted three to two to agree to end the lawsuit with a settlement with Britax: rather than an official recall, BOB would launch a safety campaign centering on a nine-minute educational video instructing customers on how to make sure the quick-release lever on their stroller’s front tire was tightened correctly. BOB also had to offer customers replacement parts—a bolt or a “modified quick release”—and discounts on new strollers for customers who had BOB models built before September 30, 2015. (The discounts were only offered for one year.)

What does this mean for parents who own BOB strollers? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear-cut, since BOB does not have a legal mandate to inspect, repair, and/or replace all strollers built within certain years. If you’re concerned about your rig, contact BOB’s information line.

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