Homefurnishing Retail

IKEA to recall Malm dressers, chests in China, watchdog says, after Xinhua criticizes 'double standard'

Roxanne Lim | Social Media Producer
IKEA recalling Malm dressers in China

IKEA will recall its Malm dressers and chests in China, the country's consumer watchdog said, just days after the Swedish company was slammed by Chinese media for operating a "double standard" in the world's most populous country.

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said on Tuesday that IKEA would recall all "Malm series" sets of drawers sold between 1999 and 2016 for safety reasons.

The number sold came to more than 1.6 million, the watchdog said.

"If they are not installed properly, it could fall and injure or even kill a child," the AQSIQ said, according to a CNBC translation of a statement on its website.

Any customer who wished to return the product would get a full refund or, alternatively, they could obtain from IKEA the fittings to fix their existing Malm furniture to the wall, the statement went on, adding that the homewares giant would provide "free installation support to customers who have difficulty doing it themselves."

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IKEA said in late June that it would recall almost 36 million chests and dressers in the U.S. and Canada. In a statement, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said that the furniture could topple over if not anchored securely to a wall.

Reuters reported that six children had died in accidents involving the IKEA furnishings tipping over.

"It is simply too dangerous to have the recalled furniture in your home unanchored, especially if you have young children," CPSC Chairman Elliott Kaye said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The North American recall included Malm-branded chests and dressers, as well as about 100 other families of chests and dressers, manufactured between 2002 and 2016, the newswire reported.

In a WeChat post on Thursday, IKEA had said it would not institute a recall in China because the furniture met local regulations, but said that concerned customers could call its service line for advice on safe installation.

In an apparent about-face, AQSIQ said on Tuesday that IKEA had submitted a request to undertake a recall effective from July 12.

The move came two days after Xinhua, the news agency widely seen as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government, criticized the company for failing to institute a recall in China as it had in North America.

IKEA operated a double standard in its treatment of China, Xinhua's editorial said, adding that the company's service standards varied widely across the country, with some stores offering free nails and free installation services, while other stores only offered "self-collection" nails and charged for installation.

"The behavior shown contradicts to the 'IKEA spirit' that founder Ingvar Kamprad talks about, being helpful and responsible," Xinhua wrote.

"China is a huge market, and should not be deprived of the high standards that the brand promises," it added.

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Chinese consumers also wrote angrily on Weibo about the lack of a Malm recall in China. One user, HappyLifeEverday, posted, "It is a discrimination against Chinese if IKEA refused to recall its problematic products in China. They shouldn't hold double standards. They must recall the items."

The company entered the Chinese market in 1998 and reported sales in the country of $1.55 billion in 2015, up 18 percent on the year before.

In a statement, IKEA told CNBC that there were no "double standards" in service levels for Chinese customers, adding that Xinhua had not contacted IKEA before publishing its critical editorial.

The company confirmed that customers could return their Malm products for a full refund.

"Product safety, especially on the safety of children, is a top priority at IKEA and something we never compromise on," the statement said. "Customers should always feel confident that products bought at IKEA are safe and healthy to use."

- CNBC's Haze Fan contributed to this report.

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