Consumer Products Regulation & Litigation

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Industry News


Industry related article from, by Mary Schwager, posted on 05/07/13:


Williams-Sonoma fined for failure to report defects in Pottery Barn products

Williams-Sonoma: BUSTED! The retailer is dishing out nearly a million dollars to pay a civil penalty to the Feds for failing to report product safety defects it knew about. Companies are supposed to report any defects, product failures or people injured by defective merchandise to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission ASAP. Looks like the company didn’t follow that ASAP part.

The defective product is a hammock stand made by Pottery Barn, a company owned by Williams-Sonoma. Here’s a link to the original recall in case you have one in your backyard.

The CPSC put out a news release today saying:

Williams-Sonoma, Inc., of San Francisco, Calif., has agreed to pay a $987,500 civil penalty.

In addition to paying a monetary penalty, Williams-Sonoma has agreed to implement and maintain a compliance program designed to ensure compliance with the safety statutes and regulations enforced by the Commission. Williams-Sonoma has also agreed to maintain and enforce a system of internal controls and procedures designed to ensure that:

  • Information required to be disclosed by the firm to the Commission is recorded, processed, and reported, in accordance with applicable law;

  • All reporting made to the Commission is timely, truthful, complete, and accurate; and

  • Prompt disclosure is made to Williams-Sonoma’s management of any significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in the design or operation of such internal controls that are reasonably likely to adversely affect, in any material respect, the company’s ability to report to the Commission.

Williams-Sonoma further agreed to provide written documentation of such improvements, processes, and controls, upon request of CPSC staff; to cooperate fully and truthfully with CPSC staff; and to make available all information, materials, and personnel deemed necessary to staff to evaluate the company’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.

The settlement resolves CPSC staff’s charges that the firm knowingly failed to report to CPSC immediately, as required by federal law, a defect involving Pottery Barn wooden hammock stands. Williams-Sonoma imported the wooden hammock stands between March 2003 and July 2008, and distributed them exclusively through Pottery Barn and PBteen catalogs and websites, and Pottery Barn Outlet stores. The hammock stands were sold nationwide for approximately $300.

CPSC staff alleged that when used outdoors, the wood in the hammock stands can deteriorate over time and break. Because the deterioration was occurring inside the metal bracket and was hidden from view, there was sometimes no outward indication to consumers that the wood was rotting until a consumer sat in the hammock and the beams broke. This posed fall and laceration hazards to consumers.

Williams-Sonoma did not file its full report with CPSC until September 11, 2008. On October 1, 2008, Williams-Sonoma and CPSC announced the recall of 30,000 wooden hammock stands. By that time, Williams-Sonoma was aware of 45 incidents involving the hammocks, including 12 reports of injuries requiring medical attention for lacerations, neck and back pain, bruising, and one incident involving fractured ribs.

Federal law requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect which could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or fails to comply with any consumer product safety rule or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by CPSC.

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