The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) appears to be clamping down on companies that fail to timely report the recall of defective or dangerous products.
The agency made a joint announcement with the U.S. Department of Justice stating that they have filed federal lawsuit against Spectrum Brands, Inc. A similar complaint was recently filed by the CPSC/DOJ against Michaels’ Stores, alleging the retailer failed to report product hazards in a timely fashion. Cases of this nature are uncommon, as most civil claims are settled by penalty rather than litigation filings by the federal government, making it difficult to determine the outcome of these types of proceedings, and the product safety community is currently paying close attention to cases of this type.
CPSC’s lawsuit alleges that Spectrum and Applica Consumer Products (a subsidiary of Spectrum) failed to timely report (in accord-ance with Article 15(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) that the Black and Decker SpaceMaker coffee pot handle posed a danger to consumer because the handles can separate from the coffee pot and possibly spill hot coffee on consumers, potentially injuring them.
CPSC and DOJ contend that the company delayed reporting the product defect for three years, causing hundreds of consumers to report to the CPSC occurrences of the handles detaching from its carafes prior to companies notifying the agency of the problem, or potentially recalling the product. The lawsuit also asserts that the companies received about 1,600 complaints from consumers from 2009 through 2012, and subsequently the companies have also distributed some potentially defective coffee pots to retailers after the announcement of
he recall–an action that is prohibited by the CPSC.
Although the two recent federal lawsuits do not establish a pattern, it is likely that CPSC will step up enforcement of late reporting violations going forward.
Both governmental agencies seek monetary civil penalties under Section 20 of the CPSA, along with injunction relief, inclusive of the adoption of a rigorous compliance program that will guarantee forthcoming compliance reporting requirements of the CPSC.
In response to the government’s filing, Spectrum Brands stated that “the Commission is taking a position that is inconsistent and irreconcilable with its conclusions concerning the nature and degree of risk associated with similar products and similar quality issues” and is “compelled to defend its conduct in court,” relative to the Commission’s “inconsistent positions and arbitrary civil penalty demand.”
Spectrum added that it “has a long history of proactive communications with the [CPSC]” even after “Spectrum Brands determined that it had distributed a small number of recalled coffee makers ..”