Product Quality

One Year Later, IKEA’s Tip-over Troubles Continue   A little over a year ago, the furniture retailer IKEA recalled 29 million dressers and chests from its MALM line following the deaths of seven children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Co, the IKEA products did not comply with the U.S. voluntary industry standard and thus posed a serious tip-over hazard.   IKEA offered consumers a full refund on the unsafe chests and dressers sold from 2002 through June 2016 as well as free wall anchoring kits. Three of the families whose children were killed took IKEA to court. IKEA agreed to settle all three wrongful death claims for the sum of $50 million plus donations to children’s charities.   But the ordeal isn’t over for IKEA, even one year later. On June 28, 2017, a group of safety advocates sent a dire warning letter to CPSC claiming that IKEA hasn’t done enough to address the tip-over prone furniture.   Spotlight on Safety IKEA’s woes should serve as a warning to promotional products suppliers. Product safety is clearly under the scrutiny of regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission along with advocacy groups like the Consumer Federation of America. In a nutshell: This could happen to you. Don’t let it happen.   When it comes to product safety and product quality, the best offense is a good defense. Mitigating risk by manufacturing or sourcing safe products is a far better alternative than incurring the costs and the damage of a recall, lawsuit, and public relations nightmare – not to mention the loss of consumer goodwill from a failed product.   Quality Assurance Companies who undergo the QCA Accreditation process are asked to document a protocol for ensuring their products adhere to quality and performance standards as determined by regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These businesses mitigate risk by validating product quality before sourcing or manufacturing.   QCA-accredited companies perform product quality audits and testing to their manufacturing operations. These types of inspections go deeper than random inspections. Product quality audits help ensure that the right processes are in place. They also pinpoint potential problems early in the process.   By making a commitment to developing and selling high-quality products, promotional product companies are also making an investment in product safety, resulting in a better product experience for all involved parties. Contact us today to...

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The Hottest Gift, Literally

In a previous article, we talked about Apple and their efforts to eliminate the sale of third party power cords and chargers designed to be used with Apple products. The company then reached out directly to major distributors asking that they pull their inventory and even dangled the threat of a lawsuit for patent infringement. As we have discussed in the past, this whole thing was much more about preventing damage to the Apple brand due to faulty knock-offs and less about potential lost sales. Because margins are so tight, understandably you may have been tempted to source a knock-off of a hot item at some point. The recent Hoverboard craze tempted many this past holiday season, and not long after that we began hearing about Hoverboards catching fire almost every day. As is typical, the real problem was the effort to save a few bucks over making safety the priority. If there is one word to take to heart about sourcing knockoffs because the original is more expensive, that word is “don’t.” Staying with the safety theme, let’s revisit the AnchorIt! Campaign initiated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that QCA is helping to publicize. The objective of the AnchorIt! Campaign is to inform parents about the importance of anchoring furniture to avoid the risk of injury to children. As part of the campaign, the CPSC asked three moms who lost children in tip-over tragedies to discuss their experience in a video to help increase awareness of the issue. You can see that video here: http://bit.ly/1QkXgYw. The sad fact of the matter is that every two weeks a child is killed because of furniture tipping over or TVs falling. Please take a few minutes to watch the video linked above and then be sure to conduct a safety survey in your own home to ensure everything is anchored down properly. Also, please help us spread the word to your customers, family, and friends. If you’d like to read more on this and related topics, please check out my column on Promo Corner Blog.   photo credit: Self-balanching board via photopin...

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For Apple, It May Not Be the Money

Recently an issue involving aftermarket charging cords and AC adapters made to use with Apple products had attorneys for the company claiming patent infringement. They requested sales be halted. Problems involving aftermarket electronic chargers and batteries are not new. In July of 2013, a China Southern Airlines flight attendant was electrocuted while using an iPhone 5. While Apple didn’t place blame directly on the faulty third-party charger, it did add additional information to their Chinese website on how to determine if a charger is a genuine Apple product. These issues have not been exclusive to Apple. In July of this year, a teenager in Texas was awakened by a Samsung Galaxy S4 smoldering under her pillow. In response, Samsung issued a statement saying the battery was not original equipment. The big question is why has Apple waited until now to take legal action? My colleague, Dee Fenton, Quality Certification Alliance’s executive director of compliance, explains, “’Apple-compatible’ parts have been, and continue to be, readily available in the commercial market. Clearly, Apple could have chosen to make a lot of money much earlier in the game through enforcement patent rights, had revenue been the sole objective.” Fenton added, “When you think about product defects and associated risk, you might say ‘once an anomaly, twice a coincidence,’ but when the same issue is observed in three separate recalls during a single calendar year for a product category, it’s time to start calling it a trend.” With recalls from other large manufacturers, Apple is likely concerned that the growing incidents of failure of aftermarket products will begin to erode consumer confidence in their genuine products. Have you been affected by the patent infringement claim? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. If you’d like to read more, please check out my column at Promo Marketing Blog. Photo Credit: caitbender via Compfight...

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Draw Your Attention to Drawstrings

When the weather in the United States turns cold, parents’ thoughts naturally turn to the weather and many wonder whether or not their kid’s sweatshirts and jackets still fit from last year. In 2014, September was a bad month in the world of recalls for kid’s outerwear. First we saw Benetton recalling United Colors Boy’s jackets, then recalls of the Pure Baby Organics Boy’s Hoodie and Active Apparel Boy’s Fission Zipper Hooded Sweatshirts followed shortly after on that same day in September. I don’t know about you, but I continue to be surprised that these coats and sweatshirts with banned closures are even brought to market in the first place. It’s not as though safety issues with drawstrings are new! They have been a problem for quite some time. In 1996, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued the first guideline about drawstrings in children’s upper outerwear, notably pointing out the potential strangulation risk. In 1997, those guidelines were incorporated on a voluntary basis. Then, in July 2011, based on the guidelines and the voluntary standard, the CPSC issued a new federal regulation. In spite of all this, these sweatshirts still manage to find their way onto store shelves, and sometimes it happens more than once. Discount clothing retailer, Ross Stores, ended up with a $3.9 million fine for repeatedly, knowingly selling youth sweatshirts with drawstrings. Ross paid a civil fine in 2009 for failing to report children’s outerwear sold between 2006 and 2008. However, they continued to sell various styles that included banned drawstrings between 2009 and 2012, and that resulted in a huge penalty and the implementation of a CPSC internal compliance program. If you’re not a retailer, what does all this mean to you as a supplier or distributor of promotional products? It is important to note that it is not just retailers, but also the manufacturers and importers that have to assess current product testing and CPSC reporting practices. It’s also important that they are fully understanding their obligations concerning their independent product safety compliance and reporting. The safety of consumer products is receiving increased scrutiny from federal and state governments and the CPSC is considering increasing penalties throughout the distribution chain for violations of underlying regulatory and reporting requirements. If you’d like to read more, please check out my column at Promo Marketing Blog photo credit: USCPSC via photopin...

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Have We Met?

I was fortunate to have been invited by Shumsky Promotional to attend a great end-user event. The QCA Distributor Advocacy Council member invited folks from a broad array of industry categories, including research software providers, insurance brokers, law firms, transportation and logistics companies, property management services, city government, and publishing houses. We met at the home of Dayton Dragons baseball team at Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton, Ohio to check out new products and ideas. Kindly, Shumsky invited me to speak to the event attendees as part of the program. I spoke from the perspective of QCA on the importance of safe and compliant products, and from a former end-user’s perspective on the importance of brand protection. I always look forward to the opportunity to connect the dots every time I have the opportunity to share ideas on transparency of the entire supply chain. My attendance, and the speaking engagement got me thinking, “Have we met?” Well, maybe not literally, but have you taken the time to “get to know” the basics about why it’s a good idea to source from QCA-accredited suppliers? I spoke to the end-users, not just about the “right way” to do business in promotional products, but about the concept of simply doing the right thing for them and protecting their brand at the same time. At QCA we have produced a series of white papers called the “Knowledge Series.” I suggest you check it out if protecting the integrity and reputation of your brand is as important to you as mitigating risk is. Mitigating risk by sourcing safe products up front is a far better alternative than incurring the costs and the damage of a recall, lawsuit, public relations nightmare, and, most importantly, the loss of consumer goodwill from a failed product. The need to source safe products is not going away and is something that cannot be ignored. Bottom line, consumers want to be safe, and they have every right to expect that from the people they do business with. This idea, of course, works its way right back up the supply chain to each and every one of us. The role of Shumsky, as well as the eleven other members of the Distributor Advocacy Council, is twofold: First, they want to ensure that they are securing accurate documentation from their vendors on an ongoing basis while sourcing from QCA-accredited suppliers. Second, they are...

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Let Me Google That For You

I’ve been tempted on several occasions to rely on my colleagues to answer my questions, rather than simply search for the answer myself by using an online resource such as Google. When I have leaned on a colleague to find the answers for me, many times they would respond with “LMGTFY.” What does that mean? “Let Me Google That For You.” Responding that way may seem snarky, but sometimes it is necessary to simply tell the person he would be best served by looking up the answer himself. On the other hand, when we Google “product safety,” we get over 18 million results. As might be expected the search results Google returns include the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. We will also find www.saferproducts.gov, the website used for reporting and researching unsafe products. One of the primary areas of focus for the Quality Certification Alliance is ethical conduct in manufacturing. If we Google “ethical conduct,” we get about 800 million results. The term “child labor” returns 16 million results, while “environmental stewardship” returns 500,000. My point is that the deluge of information is nothing if not overwhelming. While one of the goals of QCA is to provide the promotional product industry’s only non-profit independent accreditation protocol for suppliers, QCA is always looking for relevant comparable industry benchmarks. That’s why I found the American Chemical Council’s (ACC) Responsible Care Product Safety Code of particular interest. The ACC makes it its business to recognize the importance of using modern chemicals responsibly. The main reason why the ACC and its members developed the Responsible Care Product Safety Code is to drive continuous improvement in chemical product safety as part of the industry’s signature environmental, health, safety and security management system. With the number of chemicals used over the years to soften plastics in our industry, parallel ideas to learn from jump out at you. The Product Safety Code includes a set of eleven management practices through which chemical manufacturers can evaluate, demonstrate, and continuously improve their product safety performance, while also making information about chemical products available to the public. Specifically, the Product Safety Code Management Practices verify that chemical companies: Undertake scientific analysis of their products and take steps to assure they can be safely used. Enhance cooperation and communications along the chemical value chain. Consider the impact on public health, the environment, and the overall sustainability as they improve their products...

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