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Feds sue over unsafe Black & Decker coffee maker

The federal government on Friday announced a lawsuit against the distributor of a Black & Decker (SWK) coffee maker, accusing the company of disregarding consumer safety by not alerting the government of a product danger even though it had heard from well over 1,000 customers.

Spectrum Brands (SPB) and its former subsidiary, Applica Consumer Products, are accused of not reporting a dangerous product defect in a timely manner regarding the popular Black & Decker SpaceMaker. Dozens of consumers were burned after the handles on their coffee pots unexpectedly fell off, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said.

Companies are required to promptly report such hazards to the CPSC and discuss the possibility of a recall. In this case, the lawsuit said the company first learned of the defect in early 2009 but waited until April 2012 to report it to the CPSC.

"We believe Spectrum Brands and Applica Consumer Products knew about the hazard with these coffeemakers for years," CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye said in a statement. "Despite the fact that these firms were required to report potential hazards and risks to CPSC immediately, it appears they chose to profit from continued sales instead."

Consumers were unnecessarily hurt because of the company's delay in reporting the defect and for allegedly failing to follow the law, Kaye said.

Beyond failing to notify the government, the lawsuit said, the companies continued to distribute more coffee makers to retailers even after the June 2012 recall. That's another alleged violation of federal law.

In a statement, Spectrum Brands said it has been a responsible company when it comes to product safety:

"Spectrum Brands has a long history of proactive communications with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In this matter, for example, when Spectrum Brands determined that it had distributed a small number of recalled coffeemakers, it took immediate action to account for those products and report the matter to the Commission.

"Our track record demonstrates our support of the Commission's mission to protect consumers from substantial hazards and unreasonable risks of injuries posed by products, including ours. In this case, the Commission is taking a position that is inconsistent and irreconcilable with its conclusions concerning the nature and degree of risk associated with similar products and similar quality issues."

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