Mattel, CPSC disagree over reporting hazards

(Recasts, changes dateline, previous New York)

WASHINGTON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. agency tasked with consumer safety disagreed sharply on Tuesday with toymaker Mattel Inc MAT.N, which told a newspaper it preferred initially to investigate reports of dangerous toys without informing the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Mattel Chief Executive Robert Eckert told the Wall Street Journal Mattel preferred to look into reports of possible hazards internally, at least at first. “You have to put it in context,” he told the newspaper, saying Mattel always reported problems and the only concern was “whether we reported the issue in a timely manner.”

But the CPSC vehemently disagreed with Eckert’s interpretation of the law.

“It is when someone of decision-making status is made aware of a potential product hazard, they have the obligation to contact the commission within 24 hours,” said CPSC spokesperson Julie Vallese. “Whether you’re a big company or a little company, the same rules apply.”

Last month, Mattel recalled millions of Chinese-made toys due to hazards from small magnets and lead paint. The Wall Street Journal had said Mattel would face an investigation to determine if it had contacted the CPSC quickly enough.

The Journal cited several instances where Mattel learned of problems with toys, but failed to inform the commission in a timely manner.

In one case, Power Wheels Cars, the CPSC learned independently the toys were causing fires and in 2001 Mattel agreed to a $1.1 million civil penalty for failing to notify the commission.

Mattel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf)

((Editing by Andre Grenon;; +1 202 898 8313)) Keywords: MATTEL RECALLS/

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