A shopping bag and cart in an Ikea shopping center
Photo by Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images

Was Ikea treating China with a double standard? It doesn't appear so.

By Scott Cendrowski
July 13, 2016

It took Ikea two weeks after announcing massive recalls of its Malm dressers in the U.S. and Canada to expand those recalls to China. Was Ikea treating China with a double standard? It doesn’t appear so.

Following two weeks of heated complaints on Chinese social media, the Swedish furniture brand on Tuesday extended its recall to 1.7 million products in China. “IKEA is finally recalling the killing furniture in China … Is it because no accidents happened in China so far or our life is not valuable?” Lao Zhang wrote yesterday on Weibo, China’s Twitter, in a typical comment.

China’s own weak regulators are to blame for the lack of pressure placed on Ikea and other brands. Product recalls are so rare in the country that many consumers can’t recall a single one. Instead of vehicle recalls, for example, online notices will appear warning customer not to buy certain models.

Ikea’s regulator in China, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ), was guarded in its language announcing the Ikea recall, saying yesterday that, “after the meeting with AQSIQ, Ikea China submitted their recall plan.”

It appears the regulator was reacting to angry online consumers—just as Ikea was—instead of proactively dealing with a dangerous product.

Products recalls are country-specific because of varying standards and laws. This was the case with Ikea’s dresser, which was linked to the deaths of three children in the U.S. who were crushed by the furniture. An Ikea China spokeswoman emphasized that product safety is important to the company, but the recall has not been extended to the European Union, for example.

IKEA launched a recall in North America based on a local standard called ASTM– F2057. “IKEA did not launch the recall in China due to the fact that there is mandatory standard available requiring big size furniture to be anchored to the wall,” said IKEA spokeswoman Linda Xu. Ikea’s fix for the toppling dressers in North America was to affix them to a wall.

 

Ikea of course deserves blame for selling a dangerous product that killed three children in the U.S.

But in China, it was acting no different than the government by not proactively recalling a product.

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