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Post date: February 17 2009

Attorney General Cuomo Stops Two Westchester 99 Cent Stores From Selling Dangerous Extension Cords

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (February 17, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew Cuomo M. today announced an agreement with two Westchester 99 cent stores that were selling products that posed a danger to consumers.

The Attorney General’s Office learned that 99 Cent USA and Midland 99 & UP sold electrical extension cords that did not meet minimum safety standards. The Office also found that 99 Cent USA sold children’s jewelry that contained lead above acceptable levels.

Through an agreement with Attorney General Cuomo’s Office, 99 Cent and Midland must discontinue sales of the dangerous products and provide notice to their suppliers that they will no longer purchase products that do not meet safety standards or contain high lead levels. Both stores have paid penalties and costs to the state, with further penalties pending if they fail to comply with the Attorney General’s agreement.

“New Yorkers deserve to know that the products they purchase are safe,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This agreement will keep dangerous products out of Westchester stores and out of the homes of area consumers.”

The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted in cooperation with the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection (WCDCP), which examined the children’s jewelry for sale at 99 Cent, located on Main Street in Mohegan Lake. The jewelry found at the store contained lead above the acceptable levels established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Lead is toxic, especially to young children, and effects of exposure to high levels include seizures, coma, and death.

The investigation also found potentially dangerous irregularities with electrical extension cords sold at both 99 Cent and Midland, located on Midland Avenue in Port Chester. Cords not fitting the standards created by Underwriter’s Laboratories Inc. (UL) threaten injury by way of fire and shock hazards. UL is an independent product safety certification organization sponsored by manufactures, insurance companies, and other interested parties. Minimum safety standards, such as the thickness of the wire, must be met in order for a product to receive UL certification.

The WCDCP sent the cords from 99 Cent and Midland to UL for analysis. Six extensions cords from 99 Cent were tested by UL. The tests revealed that five of the cords had counterfeit UL registered trademarks on the packaging. Additionally, three cords contained no warning label and all six cords contained a thinner copper wire than stated on the package.

The UL will not certify extension cords with a wire thinner than 18 American Wire Gauge (AWG). If a copper wire is thinner than 18 AWG, the AWG measurement will be higher. UL’s tests showed cords from 99 cent measured over 20 AWG and not the 16 AWG as advertised.

An extension cord tested from Midland had no UL marking on the packaging, and was found to also contain a wire gauge thinner than stated on the package. The cord was advertised as16 AWG but tests revealed it was actually measured at 25 AWG, much thinner than industry standards. The cord also did not have safety closures and warning labels, as required by UL.

Under the agreement with Attorney General Cuomo, 99 Cent and Midland must discontinue sales of electrical cords that fail to meet industry standards. 99 Cent must also coordinate with CPSC to implement a recall of the children’s jewelry. The store cannot sell any children’s jewelry unless the product contains no more than .06 percent lead by weight and complies with all state and federal safety standards, which will be determined by an independent third-party lab.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Yasmin Rahman Kutty under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of the Westchester Regional Office Judith C. McCarthy.