By Chris Nicholls

SYDNEY: Sunbeam Australia has distanced itself from its US namesake, following a lawsuit in Texas, where plaintiffs claimed overheating sleeping blankets and heat pads had caught fire, damaging beds.

The legal proceedings began in 2004, after one customer reported their heated pad overheated, despite not being connected, and burned through into the mattress.

In the original case, Sunbeam claimed their products were safe and only notified 101 people who were thought to have purchased affected models, which were manufactured between 1991 and 2001. Models affected were fitted with either a C100 or C104 safety circuit.

Meanwhile, the latest development, settled late last month, saw a Texas lawyer claim the notification and response was inadequate, forcing Sunbeam to inform 35,000 customers and paying $10-15 compensation to each customer.

However, Sunbeam chief executive, Jonathan Lord denied any connection with the US namesake and said all electric blankets sold in Australia were completely separate models with proprietary technology.

“Sunbeam Corporation Limited (Australia) is a wholly-owned Australian subsidiary of GUD and has no direct connection with Sunbeam USA. Our electric blankets are completely different products to those marketed in the United States. We use different patented technology exclusive to Sunbeam Australia and our Safe & Sound blankets are produced in our own dedicated manufacturing facility. 

“Sunbeam Safe & Sound electric blankets feature our exclusive SleepPerfect Technology that offers nine levels of safety protection, which we believe makes them the safest electric blankets on the market.”

“Each Sunbeam Safe & Sound electric blanket control contains a microprocessor which, in addition to regulating the temperature, provides overheat, short circuit and arc protection. In the unlikely event that this microprocessor fails, a second back-up microprocessor activates, providing over-temperature control, overheat and short circuit protection. Finally, a fuse link located in the blanket socket provides mechanical overheat and overcurrent protection.

He said the system could also detect if the user had not connected the control to the blanket correctly.