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Post date: July 10 2001

Court Orders G.e. To Notify Consumers Of Its Deceptive Practices

Attorney General Spitzer today hailed two recent court rulings that sharply criticize General Electric's failure to effectively implement its dishwasher recall program and require the company to publicly notify consumers that it "acted deceptively."

In March 2000 Spitzer's office filed a lawsuit against General Electric for false representations it made to customers in a 1999 safety recall of 3.1 million dishwashers that posed a fire hazard.

This past January, Justice Louise Gruner Gans of Manhattan State Supreme Court agreed with Spitzer and ruled that GE had repeatedly misled consumers about whether the dishwashers could be repaired. Its misrepresentations forced many consumers to purchase new machines. In an order signed June 29, and released yesterday, Justice Gans detailed the procedures GE must follow to notify consumers of their rights and to implement her earlier decision.

"The order signed by Justice Gans is a complete affirmation of the case filed by my office," Spitzer said. "GE engaged in deceptive and fraudulent acts and is being forced to fully compensate those customers tricked into unnecessarily spending their hard-earned money on new GE products rather than repairing their dishwashers."

Justice Gans signed the order exactly as presented by Spitzer's office and vigorously opposed by GE. Under this order GE must:

  • Take out newspaper advertisements across the state notifying customers about the decision; and
  • Hire a third party administrator to send letters to all individuals who participated in the dishwasher rebate program or contacted GE about the recall. These letters will notify consumers regarding GE's false and fraudulent statements and will invite consumers to complete forms detailing their experiences with GE, whether or not they actually bought new dishwashers.
It is estimated that as many as 5,000 New Yorkers could be eligible for full refunds from GE for their purchases of new dishwashers. In addition, tens of thousands of consumers will have 90 days to fill out claim forms which will assist the court in its determination of civil penalties.

In a separate ruling issued on July 3, Justice Gans found that GE falsely represented the availability of a new re-wiring option. That repair option, which contradicted GE's earlier misrepresentation that the dishwashers could not be repaired, was announced in December 2000 under an amended recall program. Justice Gans found that GE had failed to provide the new repair option to a majority of the consumers who requested it.

Thus, GE has continued to jeopardize the lives of those consumers forced to live with a potential fire hazard while waiting for repairs of their dishwashers.

"GE's actions - or lack thereof - in this case have been irresponsible and highly inappropriate," Spitzer said. "The case should serve as a reminder that no company is above the law no matter how successful and powerful."

This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Joy Feigenbaum and Christine Morrison of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

Individuals with questions about either the court rulings or in filing claim forms are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.