February 18, 2000New York State Attorney General to Sue G.E. Over Deceptive
company conned consumers into buying new machines when inexpensive repairs were possible
Atlanta, GA (SafetyAlerts) - New York State Attorney
General, Eliot Spitzer, recently notified General Electric that he intends to sue the
company for deceiving consumers into buying new dishwashers following a safety recall.
G.E. is accused of concealing information from
consumers about inexpensive procedures to fix a fire hazard in its dishwashers. At the
same time that G.E. was telling consumers their appliances could not be fixed, the company
made available to commercial customers -- landlords and hotels managers -- repair kits, a
video, and even provided a $15 labor allowance.
"This is really very simple, G.E.
intentionally deceived consumers in New York and across the country so they could sell
more dishwashers," Spitzer said.
"The company knew how its dishwashers could
be fixed -- and actually provided inexpensive repair kits to commercial customers -- but
encouraged thousands of individual consumers to spend hundreds of dollars on new machines
when clearly they did not need to do so. Even worse, many consumers are still using the
dangerous dishwashers, unaware that they can be safely fixed for about $80."
It is estimated that consumers could have hired an
appliance repair person for approximately $80 for the ten minute repair procedure.
The suit, which will be filed later this month,
involves an October, 1999 recall of 3.1 million GE and Hotpoint dishwashers made between
1983 and 1989. The machines have a slide switch problem that poses a fire hazard, and has
in fact resulted in dozens of fires.
Unlike most product recalls, which offer repairs,
replacements or refunds, G.E. offered rebates of only $70 - $125 toward the purchase of a
new G.E. dishwasher, and much less for non-GE brands. When consumers questioned whether
the machines could be repaired, the company deceptively told them that the procedure was
too complicated, parts were unavailable, and due to the dishwashers age, repairs
were not possible.
While G.E. was telling this to individual
consumers, it was offering its commercial customers an inexpensive repair kit consisting
of two crimp-on connectors, instructions and a $15 labor allowance. G.E. in fact, prepared
a short video for certain commercial customers showing them how to make the repairs.
Because of G.E.s misleading statements, many
individual consumers bought new dishwashers, spending from $290 to $650 over and above the
rebate. Others have continued to use their dishwashers - which pose a fire hazard -
because they cannot afford to purchase a new one.
"G.E.s blatant misrepresentations have
forced tens of thousands of consumers here in New York and around the country to spend
hundreds of dollars to buy new dishwashers when their old ones could have been easily, and
inexpensively fixed," said Spitzer.
Spitzers lawsuit is seeking restitution and
damages for consumers who have continued to use hazardous dishwashers or who have paid for
new dishwashers because of the companys misrepresentations.
In the months following the announcement, G.E.
received nearly 671,000 phone calls on a toll-free phone line set up specifically for the
recall. Instructions on this phone line asked consumers to put all complaints in writing.
G.E. further provided documentation that it received approximately 5 thousand letters
about the recall from concerned consumers.
The specific dishwashers involved in the 1999
recall are General Electric and Hotpoint dishwashers with the model numbers GSD500D,
GSD500G, GSD540, HDA467, HDA477, and HDA487 with a serial number that has a second letter
of A,M,R,S,T,V, or Z (e.g., BM12345). To view the General Electric
and Hotpoint dishwashers recall click here.
Individuals interested in filing a complaint
against General Electric are encouraged to contact the Attorney Generals consumer
help line at (800) 771-7755. Out-of-state consumers should call (212) 416-8345. Consumers
also can obtain complaint forms
on the Attorney Generals web site.