Whirlpool Fined $11.5M for Failing to Report Recalled Glass Cooktop Burn Injuries and Fire Risks
Federal consumer protection regulators have fined Whirlpool Corporation nearly $12 million for failing to report problems with glass cooktops, which were causing fires and burn injuries for consumers.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a Whirlpool settlement agreement on August 22, indicating the appliance manufacturer has agreed to payment of civil penalties to resolve allegations that it violated federal law by not properly reporting problems linked to certain cooktop.
The commission accused Whirlpool of knowing its glass cooktops contained a defect that made them dangerous and unpredictable, However, Whirlpool did not report the issues consumers were experiencing to the CPSC until after the manufacturer had received hundreds of complaints.
Whirlpool Glass Cooktop Recall
Whirlpool and the CPSC jointly announced a recall of approximately 29,100 glass cooktops on August 28, 2019, which impacted 17 different models of stoves distributed under Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and JennAir brands. The stoves featured a glass surface with touch controls, which sold through Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Best Buy, and other home improvement stores from March 2017 until August 2019.
However, Whirlpool received at least 157 consumer complaints involving their gas or electric glass cooktops turning on by themselves or failing to turn off after use, but failed to report those incidents to the CPSC in a timely manner, according to the allegations.
The appliance manufacturer had also allegedly been aware of at least 14 reports of the cooktop stoves causing extensive property damage, and at least four incidents of surrounding objects catching on fire, which resulted in at least two minor burn injuries.
Whirlpool urged consumers to keep the defective cooktops turned off at the circuit breaker when not in use, and warned them to keep any objects or flammable material away from the stoves. They also provided consumers with a complimentary replacement cooktop.
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Whirlpool Glass Cooktop Settlement Agreement
The settlement agreement indicates Whirlpool violated federal law, which requires the manufacturer to report known defects of their products that are considered to be a safety hazard to consumers within 24 hours.
The CPSC had issued at least five recalls between 2007 and 2015 involving similar defects affecting cooktop stoves manufactured by other companies. According to the commission’s investigation, Whirlpool began to receive complaints of their glass cooktop stoves beginning in Novembers 2017, and continued to receive them until 2019, before reporting the glass cooktop problems to federal safety officials.
In addition to an $11.5 million civil penalty, which Whirlpool must pay within 30 days of the finalization of the agreement, Whirlpool will also be required to maintain specific internal controls and procedures to ensure further compliance with federal safety regulations.
The manufacturer will be required to submit reports to the CPSC regarding annual compliance programs, internal controls, and an internal audit, documenting the effectiveness of its compliance policies and procedures for a period of three years.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the settlement agreement.
“Today, I voted with my fellow Commissioners to put forward a civil penalty settlement with Whirlpool Corporation for allegedly violating the Consumer Product Safety Act,” CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric said in am August 24 statement. “Our action sends a loud and clear warning to companies who continue to sell dangerous products despite knowing that they can cause serious injury or death.”
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