Consumer Reports Issues Warning On Orbit Stroller-Car Seat; Orbit Fights Back

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, In The News, Alerts & Recalls

Consumer Reports has issued a "Don't Buy: Safety Risk" warning on the Orbit Infant System, a popular convertible car seat.
Orbit disagrees.

Tests were conducted on the Orbit Infant System and two similar products, the Graco Stylus and Eddie Bauer Adventurer, according to a press release issued by Consumer Reports. The Orbit separated from its base in two out of six tests and the other two products did not separate at all. Consumer Reports points out that when the car seat was tested without the base, there were no problems.

Orbit Infant System

The Orbit Infant System failed a Consumer Reports safety test. Credit: Consumer Reports

Orbit Baby has issued a response stating that it conducted its own tests at the same independent lab that Consumer Reports used, and that the company stands by its product. Orbit went further, saying that they were "very concerned that Consumer Reports did not follow our product instructions when they conducted their testing."

In an interview with ParentDish, David Champion, Deputy Technical Director for Automotive Products at Consumers Union (the non-profit that publishes Consumer Reports), said that Orbit's claim is "untrue."

"We followed the instruction manuals [and] the protocols exactly to the letter," he told us. When Consumers Union shared their test results with Orbit, Orbit did its own tests in the same lab with the same testing dummy, but, "they ran five of their eight tests with the belt installed in the middle position for the biggest baby you can put in there, which doesn't make sense to us."

Why not?

"In the instructions, they say that the belt should be at or slightly below a child's shoulders," Champion said. After seeing the test results from Consumer Reports, "they're suggesting that the seat belt should be in the middle position, which is not what their documentation says. We followed their instructions to the letter. But they didn't."

Responding to Champion, Joseph Hei, CEO and co-founder of Orbit Baby, issued the following statement to ParentDish via email:

"We respectfully disagree with Consumer [sic] Union's statement that they followed Orbit Baby's instruction manual. Orbit Baby's technical experts are confident that Consumer [sic] Union's positioning of the shoulder harness at the top slot does not reflect compliance with Orbit Baby's safety instructions, which state that the harness needs to be at or just below the infant's shoulders. In fact, the same testing laboratory used by Consumers Union has repeatedly endorsed the middle slot as the correct slot for Orbit Baby's federal compliance testing. Moreover, Consumer Reports failed to engage Orbit Baby's StrongArm mechanism as directed in the installation instructions. Lastly, even in the video posted on their website on this issue, Consumer Reports mistakenly tell [sic] parents to use the Infant Car Seat off the Base with only one Belt Clip engaged. Our manual clearly calls for using both Belt Clips, and their recommendation represents a safety risk. We are extremely disappointed that Consumers Union chose to provide this misleading testing information, and mistaken usage recommendations, to our consumers."

Mr. Champion reiterated in a follow-up interview that Consumers Union followed Orbit Baby's manual "to the letter" and that Hei's statement regarding the endorsemnt of the middle slot is "incorrect."

Champion also pointed out that, "we had an independent expert look at all of our data," and that expert approved of Consumers Union's methods.

It is important to note that this is not a recall.

"Consumer Reports does not issue recalls. We do tests of products to check how well they perform," said Lauren Hackett, spokesperson for Consumer Reports. "In this case we found a safety risk and we wanted to let consumers know what we found."

Bottom line: Orbit Baby may not be happy with the results, but Consumer Reports stands by their methods.

The Orbit Infant System is a high-end product that sells for $900. It has received praise from celebrities like Tori Spelling, who called the product "the best thing since sliced bread," according to a quote on its testimonials page, as well as Jessica Alba, who was photographed with her child in an Orbit Infant System stroller.

Here is a link to the initial statement from Orbit, which includes a phone number that consumers can call with any concerns. That number is 1-877-672-2229.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.