1) Any modification of a baby carrier will automatically void the manufacturer’s liability over the product.
2) Liability will transfer to the person or business who modified the carrier.
3) In many cases these people or businesses are unaware of the risk they’re exposing themselves to, and therefore do not perform the expected due diligence/home testing for such products. These businesses may also hold inadequate insurance for such risk.
4) Ignorance may not be a defence in the eyes of the law.
5) If a consumer imports a carrier from outside of Europe they then take on legal liability for the product. As in point (2) buyers/importers are often completely unaware of the legal responsibility they’re undertaking. And as the businesses or people who performed the after-market customisations are part of another market, usually the buyer/importer doesn’t have enough information to assess the relative skill of the person who has done the work on the carrier.
The relevant legislation is here: http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/consumers/consumer_safety/l32012_en.htm
6) In extreme cases a customisation could cross the line into creating a counterfeit baby carrier.
This post is prompted by an increase in the number of post-production Tula customisations (often referred to as ‘conversions’ although that terminology is confusing) but the same goes for any product which is modified after production. Tulas are not the only baby carriers to be ‘pimped’ – Manducas, Ergos and Connectas (or any market-accessible baby carrier) can be subjected to after-market customisations.
Let’s break it down completely. When you buy a baby carrier ‘converted’ by a 3rd party manufacturer, what you’re buying is a baby carrier that has been modified. This is confusing to consumers because often companies that manufacture baby carriers release their own ‘wrap conversion’ carriers. To the uninitiated a manufactured ‘wrap conversion’ and an aftermarket ‘wrap conversion’ can look very similar. The question you have to ask when buying is ‘who did the conversion?’
The modifications vary widely in invasiveness. Some are a panel, sympathetically sewn over top of a basic baby carrier which can be easily unpicked/removed. The customisation is non-permanent and the panel can be removed with little evidence left behind. While this has its own risk attached, and the original manufacturer would refuse liability over a carrier altered in this way, it’s possible this type of modification could be removed, passed down the preloved market onto a 3rd or 4th owner who is unaware of the original modification. Therefore if there were any problems later, as the manufacturer and new owner are both unaware that the modification ever occurred, the manufacturer would probably deal with any future problems that arose with good grace. This is one of many reasons some baby carrier manufacturers can be reluctant to deal with 3rd or 4th owners of a baby carrier. So while the impact of these customisations may seem minimal, they are in part responsible for a decline in the ‘above and beyond’ customer service culture we expect of baby carrier manufacturers.
Some customisations are altogether more destructive. They may include unpicking almost all of the baby carrier, creating new pattern pieces from the original baby carrier, and reconstructing the carrier. These become a massive risk to future buyers, not only because the original manufacturer would never accept liability for it, but also worryingly, it’s likely that the ‘converter’ is motivated by the money they can make by reselling a ‘wrap conversion baby carrier’ rather than fulfilling a market need.
People who are modifying or ‘pimping’ baby carriers in a substantial way need to be very careful for all of the above reasons, but also because at a certain point you are no longer customising a Tula, you’re creating a counterfeit baby carrier. This is not only illegal but irresponsibly threatens the livelihood of everyone in the custom made baby carrier industry. Also, because of the prolific preloved market no one has any control over where the baby carrier ends up and how much information is passed on to new owners.
“But! Point 5 – honestly though? no one’s going to come knocking on my door with a huge compensation claim because I bought a baby carrier from America?!?” – why not? Imagine how it sounds in court? “My baby fell and hit her head on a concrete pavement, causing permanent brain damage, upon investigation it was found that the straps of the baby carrier I bought from (X) were weakened by a customisation. At the point of purchase I didn’t know much about baby carriers, she assured me that the work that been done by a reputable business. She had several baby carriers and seemed to know what she was talking about.” What would your defence be? Everyone else on the facebook group said it was ok? I only had the carrier for 4 weeks and used it twice before I moved it on? It was a bargain? None of those things sound very convincing. How about:
“Aha! Reading the legislation then blame can levelled against not only the importer but also “any person putting their name, trade mark or other distinguishing feature on the product” so I’d just counter-sue the company outside of Europe who made the customisation!” – are you going to have the money to do that? International lawyers are expensive. Are you going to be able to track down the person that did the aftermarket customisation, if they’re on a different continent to you and you only knew of them via a facebook page which is now deactivated? It just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
“But I need a custom tula and they’re too expensive” – Firstly no one needs a custom made baby carrier. If you want a baby carrier customised with your favourite pattern baby wrap I suggest getting a pretty slip cover or suck pads made. Again these are not without risk and I strongly suggest finding a maker who clearly takes their responsibilities seriously. But on balance this solution is much less risky than paying someone to unpick and resew parts of your baby carrier.
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