For misleading consumers.
The Federal Court of Australia has ordered Thermomix to pay penalties totalling $4.6 million for making false or misleading representations, and misleading the public in relation to its kitchen appliances. The Court held that Thermomix breached the Australian Consumer Law through its silence about a safety issue affecting its TM31 appliance, which the company knew about.
The company knew from 7 July 2014 there was a potential risk of injury to users caused by the lid lifting and hot food and/or liquid escaping from the mixing bowl before that food and/or liquid had settled.
Thermomix continued to supply and promote its product until 6 September 2014 and didn’t notify consumers until 23 September 2014 that there was a known safety issue.
“By failing to act swiftly and alert consumers about the potential safety hazard with the TM31 appliance, Thermomix misled a number of consumers and placed their safety at risk,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
In delivering judgment, Justice Murphy stated that this contravention was serious and exposed a large number of consumers to the risk. Thermomix was also found by the Court to have made false or misleading representations to certain consumers about their consumer guarantee rights.
Thermomix told certain consumers either that refunds or replacements were not available to them, or in the case of one consumer that their entitlement to a refund or remedy was conditional on the consumer signing a non-disclosure agreement, preventing them from making negative comments about Thermomix, when this was not the case.
“Thermomix’s penalties should serve as a reminder to all businesses that consumers have rights in relation to faulty products which businesses cannot restrict, alter, or remove,” Court said.
“When a consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement under the ACL, businesses cannot place conditions on that right to a refund or replacement and customers certainly shouldn’t have to sign non-disclosure agreements.”
The Court also held that Thermomix caused false or misleading statements to be made in the media in March 2016 about the nature of the October 2014 recall of the TM31.
Thermomix also admitted that it failed to comply with mandatory reporting requirements on 14 occasions for injuries arising from the use of Thermomix appliances. Businesses are required to notify the Commonwealth Minister (via the ACCC) within two days of becoming aware that a person has suffered a serious injury associated with the use, or foreseeable misuse, of a product they supply.