CPSC Sues Buckyballs, Seeks Ban and Refunds for Products
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has filed an administrative complaint against the makers of a desk toy that could affect both retail and promotional businesses. On Wednesday, the CPSC filed a lawsuit against Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC, makers of the popular Buckyballs magnetic toy, seeking to stop the sale of the items and requiring the firm to offer full refunds to customers.
According to the filing (PDF), the Buckyballs and Buckycubes products "contain a defect in the design, packaging, warnings, and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public." The commission reports that dozens of young children and teenagers have accidentally swallowed the small, high-powered magnets, which become attached inside the body and can result in holes in the intestines and blood poisoning, and can potentially be fatal. Several retailers, including Amazon and Urban Outfitters, have voluntary stopped selling the products, and eBay has taken steps to remove listings of the items.
Magnetic products have been in the news repeatedly as a result of government action. Last week, manufacturer Battat Inc. agreed to pay a civil penalty of $400,000 after failing to report a defect in a children's toy that included small magnets, and in late 2011, the CPSC issued a warning about the tiny rare earth magnets, asking parents to keep them out of the reach of children.
Maxfield & Oberton responded to yesterday's filing in a statement posted on Buckyballs' website. "We are deeply disappointed that the CPSC has decided to go after our firm—and magnets in general," said Craig Zucker, CEO of Maxfield & Oberton. He maintained that the products are marketed exclusively toward adults and do not violate any CPSC regulations.
"As a small business owner I'm left wondering what to tell my employees and their families," Zucker said. "How can this happen in America?"