China state media slam Ikea ‘arrogance’

A couple looks at a table inside the Ikea Beijing Xihongmen Store, operated by Ikea AB, in Beijing, China, on Monday, March 9, 2015. China's consumer prices rose faster than economists forecast in February after the central bank stepped up policy easing and the Lunar New Year holiday pushed up food and transport costs. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg©Bloomberg

A couple look at Ikea furniture in Beijing

Chinese state media have lambasted Ikea for its “arrogance” and irresponsibility for not conducting a full recall on the mainland of furniture that has led to a number of children’s deaths in the US.

Ikea late last month recalled 29m chests of drawers in the US from its Malm line that had caused the death of at least six children since 1989. The pieces are prone to topple over and crush toddlers if not anchored to the wall, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission found. 

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But the Swedish company said on its official WeChat account that Malm products in China would not be recalled because they conformed to local regulations, and added that Ikea had received no reports of child deaths in China. The recall also does not apply to the EU, Ikea’s biggest market. 

As a compromise in China, Ikea offered to provide free screw sets for anchoring the dressers to the wall, if customers has lost the originals, and to provide free home installation on request. It also offered refunds for customers unable to anchor their furniture. 

The gesture left Chinese media and netizens unsatisfied. In an editorial published on Sunday, the official Xinhua news agency cited local media reports that customers had to pick up the replacement screws themselves at Ikea stores. 

“Ikea is still acting petty and narrow-minded, making this incident appear more and more like a farce. Who is harmed by the arrogance and stubbornness that Ikea has displayed in China?” the article said. 

“In this recall storm, Chinese consumers only see ‘cost consciousness’ but can’t see ‘taking responsibility’. Can [Ikea] still take the luxury of [saying it] ‘takes pleasure in helping’?” 

Ikea said that reports of differing service policies in different areas were inaccurate and Xinhua had not asked Ikea for comment before publishing its editorial. All customers can order replacement screws by phone or online, and the company offers free installation to “users with wall attachment difficulties”, the retailer said.

“Facts prove that no toppling accidents have occurred with cabinets that are fastened to the wall,” Ikea said. The company launched a nationwide public information campaign in March to emphasise the need to anchor cabinets to the wall, it added.

Product safety and consumer rights are growing concerns for Chinese consumers, and state media have actively publicised failings by both foreign and domestic companies.

In 2013 Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, apologised after state media slammed the company as “greedy”, “arrogant” and “dishonest” for offering less comprehensive warrantees for iPhones sold in China.

In 2014, a supplier to McDonald’s and KFC in China was accused of supplying rotting meat and falsifying expiration dates.

China has 21 Ikea stores and was the company’s fastest-growing market in 2015, with sales rising 19 per cent year on year.

In a separate incident, China’s product safety agency said earlier this month that Ikea would recall about 7,600 child safety gates with unreliable locking mechanisms. 

“Originally I really liked Ikea products, [they’re] both practical and warm, with lots of different styles. Now I hear about this recall . . . overall, I think when there’s hidden danger and [you] still want to point to technical standards . . . it’s disappointing,” a netizen called “Excellent Maiden” commented on Ikea’s WeChat announcement last week. 

Ikea did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Additional reporting by Ma Nan

Twitter: @gabewildau

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