Mr. David E. Campbell
David Campbell & Associates, Inc.
PO Box 402
Westfield Center, OH 44251-0402
Dear Mr. Campbell,
This responds to your December 4, 2002, letter and conversation with
Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff concerning the labeling requirements for a child restraint system (CRS). You stated that a foreign manufacturer is planning to import CRSs into the U.S. and would like to use a non-U.S. telephone number to comply with the labeling requirements under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, Child restraint systems. The answer to your question is that use of a non-U.S. number is not prohibited under the labeling requirement, but we do have concerns about using it.
One of the most effective ways to ensure that owners of CRSs obtain the free remedy provided under a recall is through direct notification of the customer. By providing convenient methods for purchasers to register their name and address with the manufacturer, manufacturers can increase the number of customers that receive direct notification of safety related defects or noncompliances with FMVSSs. To provide convenient methods to register, FMVSS No. 213 requires that each add-on child restraint system have a postage-paid registration form and be permanently labeled with the following statement, inserting an address and telephone number:
"Child restraints could be recalled for safety reasons. You must register this restraint to be reached in a recall. Send your name, address, and the restraints model number and manufacturing date to (insert address) or call (insert telephone number). For recall information, call the U.S. Governments Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393 (202-366-0123 in the DC area)." S5.5.2(m).
The labeling requirement in conjunction with the postage-paid registration card requirement encourages CRS owners to register for direct notification of a possible recall. Under 49 U.S.C. 30118, a manufacturer is required to notify owners and purchasers of a noncompliance or safety-related defect in vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment, including CRS. As we noted at the time this provision was adopted, requiring both an address and a telephone number on the label "make[s] it easier for a person to register" and "get the information they need." See 57 FR at 41432. Inclusion of a telephone number is particularly important for subsequent owners, who most probably would not have the postage-paid registration card.
While use of a non-U.S. telephone number is not prohibited under the FMVSS No. 213 labeling requirement, it could reduce the percentage of recalled seats returned to the manufacturer to remedy a defect or non-compliance. The cost of a long distance, out-of-country phone call could create a financial burden on CRS owners, possibly reducing the number of systems registered for recall notification, particularly by subsequent owners. By increasing the costs and inconvenience for registering a child restraint system, the number of systems registered would decrease, in turn decreasing the number of owners directly contacted in the event of a recall. The net effect of this could be that a larger number of defective or non-compliant CRSs would remain in use. For these reasons we believe a U.S. phone number should be used, and we would prefer (but do not require) manufacturers to provide a toll-free number.
A manufacturers decision not to use a U.S. phone number could have a bearing on the type of notification activities that the agency would require the manufacturer to undertake. Under 49 U.S.C. 30119(d)(2), the agency can require a manufacturer of equipment to provide public notice to effectuate the recall of a defective or noncompliant CRS. In the past, CRS manufacturers have provided notice through a variety of means including, but not limited to, retailers, child safety centers, pediatricians, and the media. In recalls of a product with an out-of-country telephone registration number, the agency could require more extensive public notice efforts in order to ensure notification of owners unable to be reached directly because of an inconvenient and burdensome registration process.
Please note that foreign manufacturers and importers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment are required to designate an agent in the United States. 49 CFR 551.45, Service of process on foreign manufacturers and importers, states that importers of motor vehicle equipment, including CRSs, are required to designate a permanent resident of the United States as an agent for service of process.
If you have any further questions please contact Christopher Calamita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.