Fisher-Price Inc., a major maker of children's toys, has agreed to pay $1.1 million to the government to settle charges that it failed to promptly report serious safety defects about its battery-powered Power Wheels vehicles.
The popular ride-on toy, sold under such names as Barbie Jeep, Big Jake and Extreme Machine, was recalled in October 1998 after the Consumer Product Safety Commission found it posed a serious fire risk, even when not in use. No deaths were reported, but the agency said at the time that it had reports of 150 fires, resulting in minor burns to nine children.
The fine is part of an ongoing crackdown against companies that failed to report safety hazards. In April, Cosco Inc., one of the nation's largest makers of baby products, agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle charges that it failed to report hazards associated with five products that led to hundreds of injuries and two deaths. Last month, the CPSC sued the nation's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., seeking a $4.5-million fine for its alleged failure to report hazards associated with some home-exercise equipment sold in its stores.
Fisher-Price, a subsidiary of El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., denied the CPSC's charges. "We do not agree with the CPSC's allegations and deny that we knowingly violated the Consumer Product Safety Act," said spokeswoman Laurie Oravec.