A company that made coffee machines for the Black & Decker brand now faces a $1.9 million penalty for allegedly failing to notify safety regulators of a known defect, then continuing to allow the sale of carafes that the company knew was dangerous.
These under-the-counter Black & Decker Spacemaker coffee machines were recalled in 2012 because the handle on the carafe could break, resulting in burns and cuts when the person holding it was showered with broken glass and hot coffee.
The CPSC reports that the first complaints of broken carafes arrived in 2008, and Spectrum Brands received 1,600 reports of broken carafes in four years, which resulted in dozens of documented injuries.
However, federal prosecutors say the manufacturer was aware of the problem much earlier. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Applica Consumer Products (a former subsidiary of Spectrum Brands) knew of the defect in 2008 and redesigned the carafe in 2009.
The problem is, notes the DOJ, the company failed follow the law and notify the U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission about the defect. What’s more, Spectrum allegedly allowed the old, defective carafes to remain on the market.
The product wasn’t recalled until after a consumer class-action lawsuit was filed against Spectrum. According to the CPSC, there were reports of 1,600 broken carafes, and 66 incidents where someone was burned or cut as a result.
“When a company learns that one of its products could seriously injure customers, it must immediately report that information to the CPSC,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a statement. “Waiting until someone is hurt before taking action is irresponsible and illegal. We will continue to enforce safety laws that protect consumers from unreasonable harm.”
Spectrum, a company that was formerly known as Rayovac, has been ordered to pay $1,936,675 in civil penalties over this case, and must prove to the DOJ and CPSC that it has internal controls meant to submit customer complaints of unsafe products to the CPSC regularly.