U.S. agency sues Black & Decker, saying toaster recall is ineffective Under-cabinet oven causes fires, safety board says

October 31, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission filed suit against Towson-based Black & Decker Corp. yesterday, alleging that the appliance giant was not conducting an effective recall of a fire-prone toaster.

It was the first legal challenge of a product recall since 1988.

Black & Decker recalled the unsafe toaster model on its own Monday, but the CPSC says the company is not doing enough to warn consumers.

"When we ask a company to do a recall, we ask them to do reverse marketing -- radio, TV, and print ads," CPSC official Alan Schoem said. "When Black & Decker announced their recall, they did none of this."

The parties had been negotiating since March 1995 over what to do about the under-cabinet model, which has caused a number of kitchen fires. But they could not agree on recall details and negotiations broke off last week.

Black & Decker appliance division spokeswoman Suzanne Jones said the company objected to a video news release the CPSC wanted to put out.

It depicts one of the toaster ovens setting a cabinet ablaze. Jones said, and CPSC officials confirmed, that bread in the test was toasted repeatedly to ensure that a fire would start.

"They felt Monday's recall would not be effective, and I don't know how they come to that conclusion in two days," Jones said.

The Spacemaker Optima Horizontal Toaster has a front door that opens automatically, allowing burning food to be extended on a tray about 1 1/2 inches, which meant flames could spread to cabinets and their contents.

Owners should unplug the toaster, clip off the plug and return it to: Black & Decker T1000 Type I Horizontal Toaster Recall, 6 Armstrong Road, Shelton, Conn. 06484. The company is offering a $40 coupon toward a new appliance.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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