Thermomix’s controversial TM31 model was recalled in 2014 following 14 reported cases of users being burned by hot liquids due to a faulty seal.
Lawyers for the appliance company and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) appeared before the Federal Court in Melbourne on Wednesday for a penalty hearing after Thermomix admitted four contraventions of consumer laws.
Justice Bernard Murphy said senior management at the company’s Australian arm knew there were issues months before it recalled the product in October 2014.
The company sent an email to its German manufacturers, Vorwerk, on July 7, 2014 containing videos of issues with the TM31.
“In my view it knew, or should have known, earlier than that,” Murphy said.
The judge said Thermomix was aware the TM31 mixing bowl lid could move during use, and knew there was a potential for hot liquid to burn and scald users.
The company’s “deliberate” contravening conduct allowed them to generate sales, Murphy said.
In the three months between Thermomix’s email to German manufacturers and its voluntary product recall in 2014, the company sold 9,443 of its TM31 appliances.
Thermomix has also admitted making false and misleading statements in 2016 about TM31’s recall.
In a media release distributed on March 4, 2016, the company stated the TM31 had “never been the subject of a product recall”, the appliance was “absolutely safe”, and implied there was no safety issue with the lid’s seal.
But at the time Thermomix actually knew about at least 35 cases where users had been seriously injured while using their TM31 models.
The company also admits it breached consumer laws by refusing to refund customers who paid more than $2000 for their Thermomix. In some cases only a conditional refund was provided.
The company told one customer she could only receive a refund if she signed a confidentiality agreement preventing her from commenting negatively about Thermomix.
Thermomix told customers they were not entitled to refunds under Australian consumer law, even though they were.
The company has agreed to pay the $4.6 million penalty in instalments, as well as $230,000 in legal costs incurred by the consumer watchdog.
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