April 30, 2015 — The Justice Department and the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) have ordered Black & Decker to pay $1.575 million for knowingly delaying a recall of lawnmowers that could start spontaneously and continue to run after the handle was released and the keys removed.
CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye issued the following statement:
“Black & Decker’s persistent inability to follow these vital product safety reporting laws calls into question their commitment to the safety of their customers. They have a lot of work to do to earn back the public’s trust.”
The walk-behind lawnmowers were sold under the Craftsman brand-name from 1995 to 2006. In 1998, Black & Decker started receiving customer complaints that the lawnmowers would not turn off when the handle was released, in violation of federal law. By 2003, the company also received complaints that the lawnmower would start spontaneously.
Black & Decker received over 100 reports of incidents, including several people who had serious hand injuries and finger lacerations. Several consumers who were cleaning the blades of the lawnmower were injured when it started unexpectedly — even with the safety key removed.
An expert hired by Black & Decker found the defect in 2004, but it was not reported to the CPSC until 2009. About 160,000 of the mowers were eventually recalled in 2010. Those lawnmowers were also recalled in 2002 for a fire hazard.
This is Black & Decker’s fifth and largest civil penalty for failing to report a safety defect since 1986. Companies are required to report potential product hazards and risks to CPSC on a timely basis. That means within 24 hours, not months or years as in Black & Decker’s case.
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