CONSUMER group Choice wants the Federal Government to make mandatory incident reports public after appliance maker Thermomix admitted it downplayed the recall of its $2000 blender that landed a number of people in hospital.
Under Australian Consumer Law, when a company becomes aware of its product killing or injuring someone, they have 48 hours to report it to the Government but this information is then kept hidden from consumers, Choice says.
Thermomix in Australia Pty Ltd (TIA) has admitted it knew nine women and a child were burned by its food processors before it issued a public safety recall in a case brought before the Federal Court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), according to federal court documents.
"While we welcome Thermomix's admission that it claimed its dangerous product was 'absolutely safe' and it was 'not a product recall', it will come as cold comfort to the many burns victims," Choice head of media Tom Godfrey said.
In May last year Choice raised the alarm about Thermomix cookers and sent a mass incident report to the ACCC urging the product be investigated after 87 incidents. Of those, 83 incidents involved TM31s and four involved the newer TM5 models. TM31 owners reported hot food or liquid spitting from the mixing bowl, which was meant to be sealed shut.
"We know that despite knowing customers had suffered serious injuries as early as March 2013, there were nine incidents and more than 300 repair reports filed before Thermomix took action," Mr Godfrey said.
"What's worse, the company took up to 1201 days to file some of its mandatory incident reports, instead of the required 48 hours.
"Thermomix blames the delay on procedural issues but we believe the company should not be allowed to hide behind its German-based manufacturer."
The ACCC accused TIA of misleading users and prospective purchasers by publicly denying there had been a safety recall on the TM31 and saying it was "absolutely safe".
According to the court documents, TIA has now admitted there was a recall, and also admitted to 14 late notifications of serious injuries.
The admissions highlight the need for mandatory incident reports to be released publicly, Choice says.
"If these reports were public, Thermomix's delaying tactics and heavy-handed treatment of its customers would have been revealed much earlier," said Mr Godfrey.
"It's concerning the Australian distributor believes that a product fault that can cause burns so severe they require hospitalisation does not count as a 'major' failure."
While TIA admits it knew of the nine burns incidents, it told the court it denied the claims this constituted "a false or misleading representation". It also denied charges that it denied legitimate refunds to consumers.
"TIA disputes that the TM31 is an unsafe product," the company told the court.
"It is a safe, reliable and high quality kitchen appliance provided that it is used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions including, as a precaution, that the green seal is replaced every two years."
TIA faces millions of dollars in fines if it loses in court.
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