Office Depot, office supplies retailer headquartered in Florida, must pay a $3.4 million civil penalty to settle safety-related charges brought about by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). According to the CPSC, Office Depot refused to notify the safety agency regarding safety concerns in two models of office chairs – the Gibson and the Quantum.
Several individuals suffered injuries as a result of the seatbacks failing during use, which is required by federal law to be reported to the CPSC within 24 hours. However, in order to save time and costs, the office supply retailer opted not to make the CPSC aware of the growing incident and injury reports. The Gibson chair hazard, however, was eventually reported because CPSC staff received a request to look into the chair.
Despite the CPSC’s efforts to protect consumers from the defective office chairs, by the time the Quantum and the Gibson chair recalls were issued, Office Depot had already received 33 and 153 incident reports, respectively. The seatback failures had been responsible for 14 and 25 injuries, respectively, as well. Some of the reported injuries required medical attention.
“When a company has received information about nearly 200 incident reports and more than 35 injuries yet fails to report to CPSC as required by law, as Office Depot did, there must be accountability,” said CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye. “Consumers who bought two popular models of Office Depot chairs experienced them unexpectedly breaking during use. Office Depot failed to report serious incidents to CPSC immediately, as the law clearly requires. More importantly, Office Depot failed to take responsibility and care for the safety of their customers.”
Between May 2006 and August 2009, Office Depot sold a total of around 150,000 Quantum office chairs at roughly $350 each. The Gibson chairs, however, far outsold the Quantum chairs, with about 1.4 million chairs sold at about $40 each. The Gibson office chairs were sold nationwide from 2003 until 2012.
Office Depot will not only be required to pay the $3.4 million civil penalty, but also abide to a separate compliance program created to develop a better understanding of the Consumer Product Safety Act. The program puts into place a series of internal controls and procedures to help transfer information about complaints, parts requests and incident reports to employees responsible for CPSC conveyance.
The compliance program seeks to ensure the following procedures are addressed:
- confidential employee reporting of compliance concerns to a senior manager;
- effective communication of compliance policies and procedures, including training;
- senior management responsibility for, and general board oversight of, compliance; and
- requirements for record retention.
For the record, Office Depot has neither agreed nor disagreed with the CPSC’s charges.