The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is alleging in a Federal Court case that Thermomix violated consumer law when it strong-armed owners into signing non-disclosure agreements, denied known safety issues and failed to report injuries in due time.
The court action comes after CHOICE presented 87 incidents caused by Thermomix appliances – 18 of which required treatment from a doctor or
nurse – to the ACCC in a mass incident report.
Most of the claims in the court case have to do with the Thermomix TM31, a
$2000 all-in-one kitchen appliance with a sketchy record.
An estimated 105,000 Thermomix TM31 appliances were recalled in October
2014 – a month after it was replaced by the TM5 – due to a defect that
led to people being scalded or burned.
The ACCC is alleging Thermomix made false representations and misled
consumers when it denied any knowledge of safety issues, allowing them "to
continue to supply the TM31".
Not only did Thermomix know of the safety issues, but the ACCC claims the
company failed to file 14 reports detailing "serious" injuries within the
mandatory 48-hour timeframe.
"Suppliers must act swiftly to notify their customers as soon as they learn of a potential safety hazard with their products," says Delia Rickard, acting chair of the ACCC.
"This requirement exists to protect the safety of Australian consumers by helping to prevent further injuries," she adds.
Additional allegations centre around Thermomix's dismissal of protected consumer rights in its after sales support.
Owners with faulty Thermomixes were strong-armed into signing contracts in
order to get a refund, replacement or repair. These agreements
contained non-disclosure clauses and provisions stopping them from "making
disparaging comments about Thermomix".
Others were flat out told Thermomix "would not provide refunds or
replacements as a remedy at any time"; a claim the ACCC says contravenes Australian Consumer Law.
CHOICE brought Thermomix's conduct to the attention of the ACCC more than 12 months ago. News of the court case was welcomed by Matt Levey, the director of campaigns, before he added more can be done to ensure products are safe.
"The allegations against Thermomix are serious and go to the heart of Australia’s product safety protections," he says.
"It's further evidence of why the government needs to lift the veil of secrecy from mandatory product safety reporting. Since 2011 more than 10,000 reports have been made but only eight of these have seen the light of day."
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions,
corrective publication orders, compliance program orders and costs. Proceedings commence next month in Melbourne.