Keurig Green Mountain agreed to pay a $5.8 million penalty to settle charges that it knowingly failed to report a safety defect in Keurig K-Cup MINI Plus Brewing Systems that could cause burn injuries. Just watch:The settlement is the 2nd-largest in the history of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), but it is a drop in the bucket of what Keurig made off the coffee makers in the 2014 holiday season.
Federal law gives manufacturers 24 hours to report safety defects to the CPSC. Keurig waited nearly 5 years after receiving the first report. In the meantime, Keurig quietly paid settlements to injured consumers.
Between December 2009 and December 2014, Keurig sold approximately 6.6 million K-Cup coffee pots in the United States that had a serious design defect — hot water, coffee, and coffee grounds could spray out of the brewers and burn anyone standing nearby.
Keurig received approximately 200 reports of hot liquids spraying out of the brewers from February 2010 through November 2014.
There were 100 reports of consumers who suffered burn-related injuries, including severe 2nd-degree or 3rd-degree burns that needed medical treatment. One person needed plastic surgery, two people suffered facial scarring, three people said the brewers sprayed them in the face with hot liquid, and one person suffered an eye injury.
Keurig also paid two lawsuit settlements from consumers who were injured when the K-Cup MINI brewers sprayed them with hot liquid.
Keurig did not open an investigation until June 2014. Two months later, the company was considering a splash guard to prevent burn injuries, but continued “investigating” until after Thanksgiving. These investigations normally take about 10 days, the CPSC said.
On November 25, 2014, Keurig finally decided to file a report with the CPSC, but imported them until December 2 and sold them through Black Friday and the holiday shopping season.
On December 23, 2014 a recall was announced for approximately 6.6 million MINI Plus Brewing Systems — but instead of offering consumers a refund, it offered a free “repair-kit” with a new basket and a splash guard. Keurig also warned that hot water is more likely to spray out after brewing two cups of coffee in a row.
Under federal law, manufacturers are required to immediately report information regarding a possible safety defect to the CPSC within 24 hours. In its report, the Commission noted that Keurig “reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in sales of these dangerous products,” and “it is safe to say Keurig gained substantially from its failure to report.”
Keurig is a $4.5 billion business with over 6,000 employees. The CPSC Commission concluded:
“We have serious reservations about whether the amount will have any meaningful deterrent effect on Keurig or other multi‐billion dollar companies who are well‐positioned to dismiss this size penalty as a small cost of doing business.”