Black & Decker Inc. will pay the U.S. more than $1.5 million for marketing and selling cordless electric lawn mowers that it knew were defective and dangerous, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced.
Federal regulators say that Black & Decker violated the reporting requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Act by failing to report that cordless lawnmowers it made and sold between 1995 and 2006 could start spontaneously and continue to run even after consumers released the handles and removed the safety keys.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Black & Decker received more than 100 complaints detailing the spontaneous-ignition and continuous-run defects in the electric mowers. The company consulted an outside expert in 2004 about the defects, and that consultant verified that the mowers could continue to run after being disengaged and with the ignition key removed.
Instead of immediately reporting those defects to CPSC regulators, as federal law requires, however, Black & Decker turned its back to the problem, federal prosecutors allege. It wasn’t until 2009 that the company finally notified the CPSC.
“Black & Decker’s persistent inability to follow these vital product safety reporting laws calls into question their commitment to the safety of their customers,” said CSPC Chairman Elliot Kaye. “They have a lot of work to do to earn back the public’s trust. 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.”
At least two consumers reported being injured by the defective mowers when the machines started unexpectedly while they were being cleaned. In one case, the lawnmower continued to run while the handle was released and without a key for several hours while the injured consumer sought emergency medical help.
The Justice Department said that this is the fifth time Black & Decker will pay civil penalties for its failure to report defects and risks posed by its products in a timely manner. The company agreed to pay the U.S. $1.575 million to settle the allegations.
Additionally, the company also agreed to be bound by a consent decree of permanent injunction that prohibits it from committing future violations of the Consumer Product Safety Act. Under that decree, Black & Decker will implement and maintain a continuous and thorough compliance program that will ensure proper compliance with U.S. laws, the Justice Department said.