(WXYZ) - When a company is notified a consumer has a significant problem--or is injured by a product -- it's supposed to tell the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But our investigation finds a disturbing increase in the number of businesses busted by the feds for not reporting! Which could actually be putting you and your family AT RISK!
Bob Dolan was using the Weed Whacker when it injured him.
"It went slamming into my shin and went right through my jeans," Dolan says.
It split his skin and left him bleeding. We learned Bob was one of 158 people injured by the now
recalled weed trimming device. The feds say the manufacturer "knowingly failed to report
several safety defects or hazards immediately to the CPSC as required by federal law" as a result: the weed whacking company was whacked with a fine just under a million dollars!
"It's pretty upsetting when I hear that they just kind of ignored it," Dolan says.
The number of companies penalized for not reporting safety defects is growing. In 2010 the CPSC had to fine two companies more than a half million dollars. But in 2011 that number increased to ten companies- and the fines totaled more than four million dollars! It includes manufacturers of these defective buggies, high end refrigerators, exercise equipment, office equipment and draw string sweatshirts.
"It greatly concerns us when injuries pile up and we're not told," Scott Wolfson from the CPSC says.
Federal law requires when a company learns a product fails to comply with safety standards, contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard or creates an unreasonable risk for serious injury or death--it must immediately inform the CPSC. Still….
"Companies struggle with when to report to the CPSC," attorney Christie Grymes Thompson says.
Thompson represents product manufacturers. She says companies have to weigh factors like: was a consumer mis-using something? Is there a pattern? At what's point do complaints equal a substantial defect?
"If the risk is maybe a little bump, probably wouldn't trigger an obligation to
report, but if the risk is cutting off a body part or a concussion or something that's more significant then that would likely trigger an obligation to report," Thompson says.
The CPSC response: "If in doubt report."
The CPSC is also calling on consumers to let it know about product problems and it wants manufactures to know: it's watching... And counting.
"If they are putting the health and safety of consumers at risk and keeping that information from us, they can really be held liable," Wolfson says.
Thompson says she'd recommend companies never try to avoid a recall by not reporting incidents to the CPSC-especially in light of how the agency has been cracking down.
If you'd like more information on how to report a complaint about a product to the CPSC, visit saferproducts.gov And remember by reporting concerns you could actually be helping to save lives.
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