12 May 2016
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has found appliance-maker Thermomix played hardball with numerous consumers after they received severe burns caused by the failure of the company's TM31 machine and tried to downplay the national recall of its flagship product.
In Australia's first mass incident report, CHOICE presented 87 Thermomix cases – 18 requiring treatment from a doctor or nurse – to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and has called for the regulator to issue a safety warning and investigate further.
"We have received an alarming number of reports from people who say they had permanent scarring or were hospitalised after their Thermomix failed," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.
"These reports also allege the company has attempted to blame victims and downplay the danger this product presents.
"It is deeply concerning that, in a number of cases, when the company was informed of an incident they blamed the consumer by classifying the product's failure as 'user error'."
CHOICE has received reports from consumers that say Thermomix was informed about the failure of its popular TM31, which led to at least one consumer requiring treatment by a hospital burns unit, at least a year before the product was listed on the national recalls website – alerting the public to the potential danger.
"Under ACCC's mandatory reporting guidelines a supplier must provide written notice to the Commonwealth Minister for consumer affairs within two days of becoming aware that someone suffered a serious injury or illness that was caused (or may have been caused) by the use or foreseeable misuse of their product," says Godfrey.
"Based on the incidents identified in our report, it appears Thermomix should have made at least two mandatory reports before October 2014 and another eight after that date.
"A responsible company should have acted quickly to address any dangers with products but based on consumer reports Thermomix Australia took more than a year between initial notification and recall."
CHOICE launched a campaign to uncover Thermomix safety issues after it was revealed the company was forcing consumers to sign non-disclosure agreements and gag orders before granting burn victims their refund rights.
"From severe burns that required hospitalisation through to near-misses such as hot liquid exploding from the Thermomix but not harming anyone, consumers need to know that this product is subject to a national recall," Godfrey says.
"The reports we've received raise real concerns about the adequacy of the TM31 recall."
CHOICE calls on the ACCC to investigate what complaints Thermomix Australia received prior to the recall and whether the fix proposed adequately addressed all of these problems.<
"Since the recall, consumers using green sealing rings have still been harmed. Four of the serious burns cases documented in the mass incident report were from people already using the green sealing ring. Others have noticed ongoing problems.
"The ACCC needs to give Thermomix users a clear answer about whether the green sealing ring fixes major problems with some machines."
For more on Thermomix and CHOICE's first mass incident report, please visit: choice.com.au/thermoburns. To watch a short explainer video, go to https://youtu.be/_poPNCxd-TU.
CHOICE's mass incident report details:
- We received 94 reports, 87 of which were about problems with a Thermomix product.
- There are two recent Thermomix products: the TM31 and the recently released TM5. 83 of the reports CHOICE received were about the TM31, four reports are about the TM5.
- In 45 reports, a consumer was harmed. Two of these cases were from a consumer using a TM5, 43 were from a consumer using a TM31.
- 18 reported having to receive treatment from a doctor or nurse as a result of the injury.
- Eight reports came from people who were hospitalised as a result of the incident. Six of these reported being treated in a specialist burns unit for a number of days, up to three weeks.
- Thermomix's response to consumers was inconsistent. While some burns victims received a refund others received no response or were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
- Of the 45 reports from consumers who were injured, 12 came from people harmed before the October 2014 TM31 recall. 18 people were harmed after the recall but were using the green sealing ring supplied to allegedly rectify problems. Nine people were harmed after the recall and were not using the green sealing ring.
- 53 people complained to Thermomix Australia. Of these, only five people said they were happy with the resolution or the quality of customer service.
- 33 people reported ongoing issues with their machines such as lids unlocking (particularly when used at high speeds).
- 26 people reported a "near miss" incident with the Thermomix spitting or exploding hot liquid without harming anyone.
 ACCC (2016), A guide to mandatory reporting law in relation to consumer goods, http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/item.phtml?itemId=984082&nodeId=11d356437f46d7a5e5209c1ffb7ab894&fn=Mandatory%20Reporting%20Guidelines.pdf
 Four reports were from customers wanting to note positive experience with their Thermomix and three reports were from people using other products.
 In six cases it wasn't clear what date the incident occurred or the green sealing ring/recall was not applicable.