Safety standards reveal double standards by IKEA

By Sun Xiaobo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/30 23:27:29

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

Child safety can never be over-emphasized and all children deserve equal care. However, after another tragic toddler death by way of an IKEA furniture item, IKEA has announced it will be again recalling the dangerous drawer sets in the US and Canada, yet not in China - clearly showing the company's double standards.

The Swedish furniture company re-launched a recall of all Malm dressers and chests and some other items on November 21 in the US and Canada, in all around 22 million products, after a 2-year-old boy in California died in May when he was crushed by the poorly designed IKEA Malm chest. This is the eighth death from a fallen IKEA dresser around the globe since 1989.

It seems that IKEA's efforts to recall chests and dressers in June and November last year were not enough and the message was not well spread. IKEA didn't include China in its recall list last year until quality watchdogs in China stepped in, yet the latest reminder of recall again failed to include the company's biggest market. 

To be fair, IKEA has done a better job than many local Chinese furniture producers in providing free wall-anchoring kits to fix the chests and dressers and also wall-mounting service upon request. Nevertheless, why is it that after identifying hazards in its products and taking action in some countries, IKEA is not taking the same strict safety measures for its patrons in Chinese IKEAs? Is it because there has been no death of a Chinese toddler yet? The lack of consideration for Chinese consumers that we have seen by foreign companies such as IKEA, Toshiba, Samsung and Porsche has shown us again and again how important it is to stand up for our rights and interests.

An underlying reason behind this apparent lack of concern lies in that Chinese authorities have not done enough to protect Chinese consumers. Without a well-established recall system in place, Chinese consumers are probably the most easygoing, unaware consumer group in the world, and more often than not will merely accept their misfortune when they end up buying a poorly designed or hazardous product. And if they do in fact choose to officially make a complaint, it will just go unanswered by the company. Going further, even if consumers take the company to court, in many cases the judge will be more lenient toward the company, rather than supporting the rights of the consumer.

While developed countries have enacted thousands of laws relating to the recall of defective products, China only has regulations in four areas: automobiles, toys, medicine and foods - not to mention weak enforcement of regulations.

Furthermore, China has lower standards for a variety of products compared to other countries, which means some foreign products that may not comply with international standards are actually acceptable in China. In the IKEA case, the company didn't recall its dangerous products sold in China initially because they actually met Chinese standards. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

The ever expanding Chinese market grows more alluring for international companies, yet neither Chinese authorities nor consumers are legally ready to protect their rights. We all know that business is driven by profit more than anything else, and thus we cannot rely on these companies to take the initiative to treat consumers in China and other countries alike when they are not technically required to do so. It is up to us as consumers to urge relevant authorities to improve the legal system to enable consumers to protect their rights and educate Chinese people on the dangers of double standards.

In doing so, we can help prevent unnecessary tragedies, such as the IKEA case, from happening on our own soil.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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