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Consumer Reports FAIL?

Two years ago, Consumer Reports was rocked by controversy when they botched their testing for a number of infant car seats and then proceeded to drag the good name of those models through the mud before eventually retracting the whole story. The incident led to some staffing changes at Consumer Reports, and they’ve been trying to earn back their credibility ever since. But it seems old habits die hard.

Now they’re attacking the Orbit Infant System, jeopardizing the reputation of this fabulous product, and why? Because someone at Consumer Reports likely didn’t read the instruction manual for the car seat before testing it. Here are the facts, as I understand them:

- Consumer Reports conducted the testing in the exact same independent laboratory that Orbit Baby has used regularly for compliance testing. In all the testing Orbit Baby has done over the years, they’ve never seen anything like the result Consumer Reports got.

- Consumer Reports misused the seat in two ways during the testing, first by using an incorrect harness height for the size of the dummy used in the testing, and second, and more significantly, they didn’t use the StrongArm self-tightening mechanism to tighten the base.

- After receiving the test results from Consumer Reports, the founders of Orbit Baby went in person to the testing facility and reran the testing. The car seat passed all the tests with flying colors.

I’m infuriated by the ignorance and blatant abuse of influence on the part of Consumer Reports. Orbit Baby is not a huge company. It’s owned by parents who use these products every day with their own children. They are obsessed with car seat engineering and safety. The smug, sensationalist and judgmental tone of the Consumer Reports press materials is incredibly offensive.

If you own an Orbit Infant System, and you’re feeling anxious about this, I can only tell you that I used my Orbit infant car seat tonight, and I’ll keep on using it until the CPSC tells me otherwise (or Zev finally gets too big). I used to be a huge Consumer Reports fan, consulting them before every major purchase. But my love affair with them is over. If they can’t be bothered to read the instruction manual before trashing a product, who could possibly trust their conclusions?

Here’s the complete statement we received today from Orbit Baby:

A recent Consumer Reports article showed that the Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat failed one of their safety tests. These results were very surprising to us. Because we make products for children, nothing is more important to us than the safety and well being of children.

Orbit Baby has run extensive and regular compliance testing in the same independent lab that Consumer Reports uses, and every test has passed. When we were notified about Consumer Reports’ results, we immediately conducted more testing – simulating their unique test conditions – and every one of those tests also passed. We also receive reports of real-life accidents from Orbit Baby parents, and we have never had a report of a separation or injury with an Orbit Baby car seat.

We are very concerned that Consumer Reports did not follow our product instructions when they conducted their testing. Any deviation from a safety product’s proper usage instructions can result in unpredictable testing conditions, and we believe this is reflected in Consumer Reports’ inconsistent results. Of greatest concern to us is their use of a harness position that was too high for the size of the dummy, and the test lab’s failure to engage the StrongArm self-tightening mechanism on the Base. It is extremely important to follow all instructions with safety products like car seats, both in testing and in the real world. Consumer Reports strongly recommends that all instructions be followed for safe car seat use, and we encourage you to consult your product manual, watch our installation videos, or read our FAQs.

We have pro-actively referred this matter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and will work with them on any further recommendations they may have.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact Orbit Baby directly at 1-877-672-2229, or email us at support@orbitbaby.com.

3 comments

  1. I completely agree with this post, and I don’t even have an Orbit, because of the terrible time I went through two years ago during the previous Consumer Reports debacle. I too turned to Consumer Reports for all that stuff you have to get when you have a new baby. As a result, I bought their #1 rated infant car seat (at that time the Britax Companion) and loved it. Then, their screwy report came out and I was sure I was strapping my baby into a death trap. The only “approved” seat in the faulty tests, a Graco, was completely sold out everywhere I went, not to mention that we were hard strapped for extra income and the hefty price tag of the Britax had been a stretch in itself – I spent weeks agonizing about it until they had their retraction. I still feel burned by the whole experience and even though I’m out of the infant car seat market for the foreseeable future – and out of the Orbit price range entirely anyway, I still emphatically agree with what you wrote!

  2. As a soon-to-be first time Mom, I have been thrust into the world of new terminology and products. To navigate this new (and overwhelming) maze, I have turned to Consumer Reports as well, to assist me in my purchases or registry selections. Consumer Reports may have gotten a pass from their first debacle, but a second incident, in a short time period, is very unsettling. It makes me question my current decisions and whether I have unerringly relied on a poor resource. If not for Magic Beans product selections and informative disclosures, I may have blindly been making unbalanced decisions for my future baby. While the Orbit system is also out of my price range, it is comforting to know that other products that Magic Beans offers, are also diligently followed.

  3. I am a mom to be and still preparing a list to buy for the new member of the family. It’s good that I came across your post because I am currently having a hard time to choose. Orbit is one of our choices and I think we’ll be buying this one. =)

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