Fitness company Peloton Interactive Inc. agreed to a voluntary recall of its Tread and Tread+ treadmills over safety concerns Wednesday, following at least 72 safety incidents involving people, pets and objects being pulled underneath the machine, one of which resulted in the death of a 6-year-old.
Peloton initially refused to accede to the federal government's push for a recall. A Peloton spokesperson told NPR last month that the Tread machines are "safe when operated as directed" and that "a recall has never been warranted."
Now, the company's CEO, John Foley, said that resistance was a mistake.
"The decision to recall both products was the right thing to do for Peloton's Members and their families," Foley wrote in a statement accompanying the recall. "Peloton made a mistake in our initial response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's request that we recall the Tread+. We should have engaged more productively with them from the outset."
The recall agreement, accepted Wednesday morning in a vote by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, requires Peloton to halt sales of the Tread+ and Tread machines and fully refund consumers who wish to return their equipment.
Robert Adler, the commission's acting chairman, lamented in a separate statement that his agency faces a "nearly insurmountable" hurdle in protecting the public because of a statute that requires the agency to negotiate at length with companies before it is allowed to issue any safety warnings.
"No other federal health and safety agency faces this restriction," Adler said. "It is plain to see how bad it is for consumers that we are so limited in how we can protect them."
His response echoes calls by consumer advocacy groups who say that Congress should give greater enforcement ability to the agency. Teresa Murray of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said, as it stands now, the CPSC "gives manufacturers too much control over recalls."
In an email to NPR, a Peloton spokesperson apologized for the company's "mistake."
"We're learning from this experience and will be a stronger company as a result," the email said.
Kaitlin Wowak, an assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, said there are a number of reasons that companies might initially resist product recalls, including concerns about costs and the cultural dynamics within an organization.
She said it is far more common for companies to comply with the government, as Peloton has now decided to do.
"When federal agencies make such recommendations, they often have sufficient reason to believe the product is defective," Wowak said. "It's typically in the company's best interest to accommodate."