Thermomix cuts secret burns case deal
THE company behind the Thermomix has done a deal with the consumer cops which will see it hit with a stiff court-sanctioned fine for misleading the 200,000-plus Australian owners of the burn-causing $2000 cooker.
News Corp Australia can reveal the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Thermomix in Australia Pty Ltd (TiA) are set to make a joint submission to Federal Court Justice Bernard Murphy by Tuesday on a penalty.
A five-day hearing, which had been due to begin Monday in Melbourne, will no longer go ahead. Instead there will be a one-day hearing on a penalty on Wednesday.
For the 200,000-plus Thermomix owners in Australia, the implications of an ACCC-TiA deal are unclear. Both sides said they couldn't comment ahead of the penalty hearing.
Consumer group Choice, which was first to sound the alarm about the Thermomix TM31, said anything short of a hefty fine would "come as cold comfort to the many burns victims".
"Whether it's subjecting their customers to potential harm, reaping in profits through the sale of a faulty product, denying refunds, or dragging its feet every step of the way, Thermomix must be substantially penalised," said Choice's head of campaigns and policy Sarah Agar.
"Each breach of consumer law by a business carries a fine of up to $1.1 million, and high penalties are needed in this case to send a strong message."
Choice published an investigation in May 2016 that catalogued 83 incidents involving TM31s and four about the newer TM5. TM31 owners reported hot food or liquid spitting from the mixing bowl, which was meant to be sealed shut. Forty-five reports involved injury including 18 where a medical professional had to treat burns.
In June last year the ACCC filed Federal Court proceedings against TiA alleging several breaches of consumer law.
The ACCC accused TiA of misleading users and prospective purchasers by publicly denying there had been a safety recall on the TM31. In a 2016 media release, TiA had said the TM31 had never been subject to a product recall and was "absolutely safe".
This was despite a voluntary recall notice being published on the government's recalls website in 2014 that said the original grey sealing ring had to be replaced with a new green one because a "potential product defect could lead to a scald or burn for the user if liquid or food splashes out of the mixing bowl".
As first reported by News Corp Australia in October last year, TiA admitted in a court document that there had been a recall. It also admitted to knowing nine women and a child had been burnt by its pricey appliance before it decided a public safety warning was necessary.
And it conceded a further legal breach for taking up to 1200 days to report serious injuries to the Federal Government when the time limit is two days.
Until now TiA has maintained the product was safe and that it had not denied legitimate refunds. It is unknown whether TiA stands by these claims.