General Electric Dishwasher Recall Expanded

Attorney General Spitzer today praised the announcement that the 1999 General Electric dishwasher recall will be expanded to offer free repairs to all owners, not just commercial ones, and cited his office's efforts as a catalyst for the decision.

"It's unfortunate that it took a lawsuit by my office to force G.E. to step up to the plate to do the right thing," Spitzer said. "Nonetheless, this is very good news for consumers here in New York and across the country.

"Because of our lawsuit, G.E. is finally doing what any good corporate citizen should do, and that is to stand behind its product. G.E. has admitted that its dishwashers are faulty and dangerous, and now it'll offer free repairs to make them safe."

In October 1999, General Electric and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of 3.1 million General Electric 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.

Last February, Spitzer announced a lawsuit against G.E. accusing it of concealing information from consumers about inexpensive procedures to fix the fire hazard. Instead, the company deceived the public into buying new dishwashers by providing a rebate worth only $25 - $125, depending on the model, toward the purchase of a new dishwasher. At the same time, however, the company made available to commercial customers - landlords and hotel managers - repair kits and a video, and even provided a $15 labor allowance.

When consumers contacted the company to complain about having to incur the cost to replace their working dishwashers, G.E. would respond by falsely telling them that the dishwashers could not be repaired and that the parts were no longer available.

"The decision by GE to expand its free 'rework' procedure, originally offered only to its commercial customers, underscores the need for a court to order restitution for all consumers who having been deceived by G.E., conscientiously followed the original recall terms and replaced their dishwashers when an inexpensive repair would have sufficed," Spitzer said. "If G.E. had acted responsibly from the outset of the recall, it would have saved many people from choosing between spending hundreds of dollars to replace a functioning dishwasher or living with a potential fire hazard."

Approximately 1,000 complaints have been filed with Spitzer's office regarding the G.E. dishwasher recall.

Spitzer's lawsuit is seeking restitution and damages for consumers, civil penalties for G.E.'s fraudulent conduct, and a court order barring the company from further deception. A decision in the case could be forthcoming at any time.

Individuals interested in filing a complaint against General Electric are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755. Out-of-state consumers should call (212) 416-8300. Consumers can find out more about the G.E. recall or obtain a complaint form on the Attorney General's web site at www.ag.ny.gov.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joy Feigenbaum and Christine Morrisson of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

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