Johnson Health Tech Co. Ltd. has agreed to pay a $3 million civil penalty to settle allegations by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that the company failed to report that two of its elliptical exercise machines could short out and catch fire after being splashed with sweat. The Taiwanese company and its American division allegedly failed to immediately notify the CPSC that it had received reports of its Matrix Fitness Ascent Trainers and Elliptical Trainers shorting out, smoking, sparking and even catching fire due to sweat or cleaning solutions. The CPSC approved the settlement in 3-2 vote. The fitness trainers’ defect involved a build-up of moisture in the power sockets of the units from perspiration or cleaning liquids, which caused the machines to short circuit.
Aside from the fine, Johnson Health agreed to maintain a compliance program to keep it in line with the CPSC’s regulations, according to the settlement agreement, which stated that the company did not admit any wrongdoing. Between March 2012 and October 2013, Johnson Health received numerous reports of problems with the machines and instituted two design changes to solve the issue. The machines were eventually recalled in January 2014, but the company failed to report the alleged defect, which created an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death under the Consumer Product Safety Act, according to the CPSC. No injuries were reported as a result of any of the 44 known incidents, most of which involved charring and melting on the machines’ power cord sockets, according to the agency.
Johnson Health has somewhat of a lengthy history with the CPSC, paying a $500,000 penalty in 2004 for defective “runaway” treadmills that could suddenly accelerate to nearly 17 mph and recalling thousands of its exercise bikes called Krankcycles in 2013 for seats that could detach and topple riders. The company also recalled about 1,100 strength training towers in 2014 because of faulty plastic connectors that could become loose or break, causing at least one user to suffer a cut over the eye.
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