By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) -Whirlpool agreed to pay an $11.5 million civil fine to resolve U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission charges that it failed to immediately report that its glass cooktops could turn on by themselves, posing burn and fire hazards.
Thursday’s settlement covers 17 models of electric radiant heat cooktops under the JennAir, KitchenAid and Whirlpool brands.
According to the CPSC, many consumers told Whirlpool beginning in November 2017 and continuing into 2019 that their cooktops were turning themselves on, a defect that could create an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.
But the CPSC said Whirlpool waited until receiving 157 reports — including 14 of property damage, four of objects igniting and two of minor burns — before reporting the problem.
The CPSC and Whirlpool announced a recall of about 26,300 cooktops in August 2019.
Under its settlement agreement, Whirlpool agreed to maintain controls to ensure its compliance with federal consumer product safety laws.
The Benton Harbor, Michigan-based company did not admit liability, but settled to avoid the cost, uncertainty and inconvenience of litigation.
In a statement, Whirlpool said it acted “appropriately” upon identifying the defect, including by recalling the cooktops under the CPSC’s Fast Track recall program.
Whirlpool also said it had reached out to cooktop owners and offered to replace their appliances for free.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese, Sandra Maler and Jonathan Oatis)