April 19, 2014

Refrigerator Safety Act

The horrifying death of a child trapped in an abandoned refrigerator was the motivation behind a story by the Channel 5 news in Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

The station reported finding numerous refrigerators abandoned in people’s yards. This is certainly a danger and without question should be addressed as a public safety hazard, but the investigation states that “it’s against federal law to have such an appliance just sitting around.”

I was curious about this federal law called The Refrigerator Safety Act and looked into it myself. What I found is this:

{SEC. 1.} [15 U.S.C. 1211]
It shall be unlawful for any person to introduce or deliver
for introduction into interstate commerce any household
refrigerator manufactured on or after the date this section takes
effect unless it is equipped with a device, enabling the door
there of to be opened from the inside,
which conforms with
standards prescribed pursuant to section 3.

The law was to become effective after the various standards were defined, all of which followed the Refrigerator Safety Act’s publication date of August 2, 1956. This also appears to be misunderstood in the news story.

The local station also reported that “The law says that if you’re going to keep a refrigerator around, the doors and locks must be removed.”

I could find nothing that requires the owner to alter their appliance. The manufacturer is required to make it possible to open it from inside, preventing entrapment. I don’t think a panicked, trapped child (or adult) will be able to find the release mechanism and get out. The concept is good, but in practice, I don’t think it will work. Removing the doors is a great idea, it just doesn’t appear to be legally required.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I have taped, tied and locked my empty freezer before turning it to the wall and locking it in the garage away from all children and animals. I take the safety of others very seriously, I just couldn’t find the federal law that could fine me if I didn’t take government mandated precautions. I don’t have a solution or an answer to what should or shouldn’t be governed; I’ll try to do what I believe to be right to protect others, but I like to be clear about laws.

Take a look at the law here, and see if my reading comprehension needs improving. In the meantime, please, don’t leave any appliance large enough to contain a living breathing, creature out where it will be a hazard- federal law or not.

The Battle Continues – LG vs Whirlpool

If you have been following the ongoing series of court debates between LG and Whirlpool, you’ll be aware of the back and forth battles regarding steam dryers and refrigerator patents.

The United States District Court in Chicago this week entered a final judgment in favor of Whirlpool in a case filed by LG Electronics involving Whirlpool’s steam dryer advertising. The court had previously ruled that “Whirlpool has established that its dryers do, in fact, use steam,” and that “LG did not introduce expert testimony or credible evidence of even a single Whirlpool customer, retailer, or trade representative who expressed confusion.”

“We’re very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Marc Bitzer, president, Whirlpool North America Region. This victory means consumers will continue to have a choice in purchasing their steam laundry appliances.”

While this seems to settle the steam dryer case, the refrigerator patent battles continue. LG originally sued to have Whirlpool fridge patents invalidated; Whirlpool countersued. In March 2010, a jury trial found mostly in favor of Whirlpool and awarded Whirlpool $1,786,925. On July 1, 2011, the court granted a new trial and set a trial date of Sept. 28, 2011.

Whirlpool is seeking a judgment that better validates its patent claims; LG seeks to have the claims of patent violation invalidated and eliminate its liability. Stay tuned…

Haier Buying Sanyo Appliance Division

Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. plans to sell much of its major appliance business to China’s Haier Group, in an uncommon instance of a Japanese electronics conglomerate allowing a rising Chinese rival take over a chunk of a major business segment.

The sale of the Sanyo operations—mostly washing-machine and refrigerator businesses—is part of Panasonic’s efforts to eliminate overlapping areas since its 2009 purchase of Sanyo. For Haier, the acquisition of Sanyo’s businesses will help it move a step closer to becoming a globally recognized quality appliance brand like Whirlpool or Electrolux.

Haier Group will have the rights to use the Sanyo brand name on washing machines, refrigerators, air-conditioners, TVs, and other consumer appliances in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia under the SANYO brand for a limited, but unspecified, period of time.

The acquisition of the Sanyo businesses is “an important part of Haier’s overall growth strategy,” said Haier Vice President Du Jingguo in a statement released Thursday.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Haier has said previously it was looking at overseas acquisitions to grow. President Yang Mianmian told Dow Jones Newswires in March it would look at opportunities that arise.

The Chinese firm previously held talks with General Electric Co. in 2008 to buy the U.S. firm’s appliance unit. Before the talks with GE, Haier made an unsuccessful bid for Maytag Corp. in 2004 but lost out to Whirlpool Corp.

Haier holds more than 6% of the world’s white-goods market.

Save Money on New Appliances and Help the World Too

We can all use a little help these days. If your budget cuts have you rethinking how to replace an aging appliance, GE offers a solution that lets you buy a new appliance while helping others. At the online GE outlet store, with any purchase of one of their discontinued, closeout or overstock appliances (which includes standard GE warranty and free delivery) they will donate 2% of the price to the United Way.

They have just about every appliance you could need – from refrigerators, and washers to trash compactors and range hoods. The supply and variety varies, with more choices in the larger kitchen appliances than others. The savings also vary. At last look, you could save $200 -$500 on a refrigerator, but just around $20 on a ventilation hood.

It would also be a good resource if you are trying to match older GE Appliances already in your kitchen.

Black & Decker Agrees to $960,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Defective Grasshog XP Weed Trimmer/Edgers

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Black & Decker Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $960,000. The penalty agreement has been provisionally accepted by the Commission (5-0).

The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s allegations that Black & Decker knowingly failed to report several safety defects and hazards with the Grasshog XP immediately to CPSC, as required by federal law. CPSC staff also alleges the firm withheld information requested by CPSC staff during the course of the investigation.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard or ban enforced by CPSC.

CPSC staff alleges Black & Decker knew, on or before May 2006, that the high-powered, electric Grasshog XP GH1000 was defective and could cause harm, but failed to report this to CPSC.

CPSC staff also alleges that Black & Decker failed to provide full information about defects with the Grasshog XP as requested in May 2006. Based on the incomplete information provided at that time, CPSC closed the case. The firm did not give CPSC staff full information about the extent of Grasshog XP defects or the mounting number of incidents and injuries until October 2006.

In July 2007, Black & Decker and CPSC announced the recall of about 200,000 Grasshog XP model GH1000 trimmer/edgers. By that time, there were more than 700 reports of incidents, including 58 injuries with the Grasshog XP. The trimmer/edgers’s spool, spool cap and pieces of trimmer string can come loose during use and become projectiles. This poses a serious laceration hazard to the user and to bystanders. The trimmer/edgers also can overheat and burn consumers. Black & Decker sold the Grasshog XP weed trimmers from November 2005 through spring 2007 for about $70.

The recall was reannounced in August 2009 with an additional 100 injuries reported. CPSC urges consumers with recalled Grasshog XP trimmer/edgers to contact Black & Decker for a free repair kit.

In agreeing to the settlement, Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. denies CPSC staff allegations that it knowingly violated the law.

Recall: Honeywell Electric Baseboard and Fan Heater Thermostats Due to Burn Hazard

Name of Product: Electric Baseboard and Fan Heater Thermostats

Units: About 77,000

Importer: Honeywell International Inc., of Morris Township, N.J.

Hazard: The thermostats can overheat, causing them to melt and smoke. This poses a burn hazard to the consumer.

Incidents/Injuries: Honeywell has received 16 reports of thermostats melting. There have been no reports of injuries.

Description: The recalled thermostats are rectangular, white, programmable thermostats used to control electric baseboard and fan heaters. “Honeywell” or “Cadet” is printed on the front of the thermostats that come in various sizes. The model number and four-digit date code are printed on a label inside the front cover of the thermostat. The model numbers listed below are included in this recall. Only models with date codes beginning with 00, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 or 06 are included.

Brand Name/ Model Number
Honeywell/ CT1950A1003
Honeywell/ CT1950B1002
Honeywell/ CT1957A1008
CADET/ T4700B1030
CADET/ T4700A1040
Honeywell/ T4700B1014
Honeywell/ T4700A1016

Sold at: Home improvement stores, HVAC and electrical stores, and contractors from January 2000 to December 2007 for between $80 and $300.

Manufactured in: Singapore

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled thermostats by setting the thermostats to 45 degrees or turning them off. Only models with a “B” in the model number have an off switch. Consumers should contact Honeywell for a free replacement installed by Honeywell.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Honeywell toll-free at (888) 235-7363 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT. Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at http://www.yourhome.honeywell.com/T4700

Recall – Again: Additional Retail Sales Prompt CPSC and Meijer to Reannounce Touch Point Heater Recall; Fire Hazard Posed

Name of Product: Touch Point Oscillating Ceramic Heaters

Units: About 13,000 units (6,700 originally recalled in November 2010)

Importer: Meijer Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Hazard: The oscillating mechanism in the heaters can short out, posing a fire hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Meijer has received two reports of incidents involving fires that resulted in property damage. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This announcement involves previously recalled Touch Point oscillating ceramic heaters with model number PTC-902. The grey/silver color heaters are about 10-inches tall, have a black screen across the front and controls on the top. The model number and UPC code 7-60236-58339 are printed on a metal label/plate on the bottom of the heater. Some models have an additional digit in the UPC code, making it a 12-digit code. In addition, some heaters will have a UPC code 7-13733-29222 sticker on the bottom of the packaging box.

Sold at: Meijer stores in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio from October 2009 through April 2011 for about $25. Discount retailers, dollar stores, flea markets and retail liquidators nationwide sold the heaters from November 2010 through April 2011 for various prices. The heaters were sold after the original recall was announced in November 2010.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled heaters and return them to the nearest Meijer retail store for a full refund of the purchase price. Consumers who purchased heaters from other retailers should contact Meijer to arrange a refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Meijer at (800) 927-8699 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.meijer.com

Viking Range Corporation Agrees to $450,000 Civil Penalty for Failing to Report Defective Refrigerators

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that Viking Range Corporation, of Greenwood, Miss., has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $450,000. The penalty agreement has been provisionally accepted by the Commission.

The settlement resolves CPSC staff allegations that Viking Range Corporation was aware for years of a defect involving its refrigerator door hinge support mechanisms that resulted in incidents and injuries to consumers; yet the firm failed to report immediately to CPSC as required by federal law. Viking reported the safety defect to the Commission in April 2009, and the firm agreed to a recall in June 2009. Subsequent investigation conducted by CPSC staff uncovered that by that time the firm was aware of at least 10 reports of injuries involving Viking refrigerator hinge failures going back over several years.

CPSC and Viking Range Corporation announced a recall of more than 45,000 Viking refrigerators in June 2009. The hazard identified with the refrigerators is that refrigerator hinges and hardware that attach the doors to the refrigerator box can loosen, sag and detach, posing an impact injury hazard to consumers if the door detaches. Viking sold the refrigerators through appliance and specialty retailers from July 1999 through April 2006.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to report to CPSC within 24 hours after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard or ban enforced by CPSC.

In agreeing to the settlement, Viking Range Corporation denies CPSC staff allegations as to the existence of a defect or hazard or that it violated the law.