Black & Decker is in big trouble with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), because the company failed to properly report safety defects with its cordless electric lawnmowers. The safety hazard was caused when some lawnmowers started spontaneously and continued to operate after consumers released the handles and removed the safety keys.
Product safety reporting laws require companies to report any known safety defects to the CPSC within 24 hours of discovery. Although Black and Decker started receiving customer complaints in 2003 and an outside expert confirmed the defect in 2004, they did not report the safety hazard to the CPSC until 2009. As a result, Black & Decker will pay a civil penalty of $1.575 million. This is the company’s fifth civil penalty since 1986 for violating federal reporting requirements. In a statement released on Wednesday, CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said, “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.”
In addition to paying the $1.575 million civil penalty, Black & Decker has agreed to maintain a comprehensive internal compliance program. “The Department of Justice will continue to protect the public against companies that put profits over safety,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the DOJ’s Civil Division.