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United States Files Suit Against Spectrum Brands for Failing to Report Safety Hazard in Defective Black and Decker Coffeemakers

Release Date: June 19, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) jointly announced the filing of a complaint against Spectrum Brands Inc. alleging that the company and its former subsidiary, Applica Consumer Products, failed to timely report a hazardous defect involving handles that suddenly detached from Black & Decker brand SpaceMaker coffee pots, resulting in  burns to consumers.  The suit alleges that about 1,600 reports were filed by consumers about the coffeemaker’s handle detaching from early 2009 until April 2012 before Applica finally notified CPSC about the defect and agreed to recall the coffeemaker.    

“We believe Spectrum Brands and Applica Consumer Products knew about the hazard with these coffeemakers for years,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye.  “Despite the fact that these firms were required to report potential hazards and risks to CPSC immediately, it appears they chose to profit from continued sales instead.  Their failure to follow the law and report resulted in dozens of injuries to unsuspecting consumers.”

“Hundreds of consumers complained to the company about this dangerous defect over the years,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We rely on companies to report these safety issues immediately, as the law requires, to prevent unnecessary injuries.  The Department of Justice will continue to protect the public against companies that put profits over safety.”

The complaint, filed by DOJ on behalf of CPSC in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, charges that the companies knowingly violated the reporting requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act.  The complaint seeks civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief.

The government also alleges that, in addition to failing to notify the CPSC “immediately,” as required by law, the companies continued to distribute a small number of the defective coffeemakers to retailers, after announcement of the recall in June 2012.  Selling such recalled products violates federal law.

The matter is being handled by DOJ’s Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and the CPSC’s Office of the General Counsel.

The claims made in the complaint are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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