THE consumer watchdog is taking legal action against Thermomix in the Federal Court following months of investigation into the controversial company.
The ACCC also alleges that Thermomix misled consumers by telling them its TM31 machines were safe and that they weren’t upfront about its potential safety issues.
“Consumers who have purchased a faulty product have rights under the Australian Consumer Law to remedies which businesses cannot restrict, alter, or remove, and this includes getting a repair or replacement for the product, or a refund,” ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said.
Australian Consumer Law requires companies to notify the ACCC within two days when they have become aware that consumers have been injured by their products. The ACCC alleges Thermomix failed to do this in 14 cases.
“The law requires that suppliers must act to notify the ACCC as soon as they become aware of any person who has suffered a serious injury associated with the goods they have supplied. This requirement exists to protect the safety of Australian consumers by helping to prevent further injuries,” Ms Rickard said.
“Suppliers must act swiftly to notify their customers as soon as they learn of a potential safety hazard with their products.”
“I had popped the pasta sauce ingredients in the Thermomix using the same recipe I’ve used every week since I bought the machine more than two years ago,” Ms Jones said.
“Towards the end of the process it was pureeing the sauce when it started making a funny noise and vibrating. I walked over to turn it off and as I did that, it just exploded — the lid blew off and hot liquid went everywhere, all over me. The pain was intense.”
She was taken to the hospital burns unit for extensive treatment and was given an electromagnetic device to wear for 20 hours each day as the burns healed.
“This was an awful ordeal which I wouldn’t wish upon anyone else,” she said. “So many people use a Thermomix and they need to know how unpredictable they can be and how dangerous they can become when they malfunction.”
As news.com.au reported last March, unhappy Thermomix customers with faulty machines claim they were “gagged” by the company and made to sign NDA’s before receiving replacement machines.
Several women accused Thermomix management of intimidating and bullying them when trying to arrange a refund, repair or replacement.
A Sydney woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says she was “coerced” into signing an NDA in November 2015 after suffering severe burns when the seal on her TM31 Thermomix broke.
“They said they wouldn’t give me a refund unless I signed the gag order and I was sick of fighting,” she said.
Another woman from Victoria, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said Thermomix were happy to give her a refund of her faulty TM31, but required her to sign the document and agree to keep quiet.
“I was forced to sign a gag order, which I stated from day dot that I refused to do. After fighting for over 12 months, I just wanted the machine gone and a refund,” she said.
The nondisclosure agreement, which news.com.au has seen, said the terms of the “settlement” were confidential and not be discussed without prior written consent.
“You also agree not to disparage, speak ill of, or comment negatively about Thermomix or [parent company] Vorwerk, and not to take any action which is intended, or would reasonably be expected, to harm the reputation of Thermomix or Vorwerk, or lead to unwanted or unfavourable publicity,” the document said.
At the time, a Thermomix spokeswoman told news.com.au it is “standard legal practice” for all parties to sign a confidentiality agreement when a legal dispute is settled.
But she refuted claims customers who request a refund on a faulty item are required to sign an NDA.
“Where a customer has asked for a refund due to a fault with an appliance, and our technicians confirm such a fault after inspecting the appliance, we provide the customer with a refund and do not require them to sign a confidentiality agreement,” she said in a statement.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective publication orders, compliance program orders and costs. It filed against Thermomix in the Federal Court today and the matter will begin on July 21.