This week in class action news saw the EPA testing more vehicles after the VW emissions scandal, an update in the Essure controversy, problems with Mercedes repair parts, inadequate enforcement of WD-40 aerosol can safety standards, and several chocolate giants accused of failing to disclose child slave labor practices to consumers. It’s quite the spread, but here we go…
The EPA Regulates the Automotive Industry
The Environmental Protection Agency is keeping a very close eye on the auto industry these days. In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, they’re vowing to test more vehicles for the notorious “defeat devices” to make sure no other car manufacturers are breaking the law. Last Friday, the agency announced it would begin testing the light-duty diesel models of all automakers, both on the road and in production.
The EPA is also closely involved with (babysitting) Volkswagen’s plan for the recall of the 482,000 vehicles installed with the so-called defeat devices. They’re saying that a fix will first become available for the 2015 models, shortly followed by one for the 2012-2014 Passats. The other affected vehicles will take longer to find a fix for, according to the environmental regulator.
Essure Controversy Picking Up Steam
Two weeks ago, the FDA held a meeting at a campus in Maryland to discuss the risks and benefits of the Essure contraceptive system. In attendance? The FDA’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices Advisory Panel, a group of medical professionals from around the nation that are intermittently called together to advise the FDA on policies that affect their field of practice, representatives from Bayer, the manufacturer of Essure, and several women who said their lives were turned upside down by the contraceptive.
The panel heard from numerous Essure patients who relayed the harmful side effects they experienced after being implanted with the device. This wasn’t surprising given that the number of complaints regarding Essure have risen from 115 in 2011 to about 2,260 last year.
Following the public hearing, the panel discussed the symptoms patients had reported and how they may relate to the Essure device. They also strongly encouraged the FDA to review cases and gather more data concerning the heath issues that arose in such a large number of complaints. The last point the panel covered was the benefit-risk profile of Essure and determining the populations that may find the device less favorable.
The advisors did not vote on any issues related to Essure, but it did help to bring some those issues to light. The FDA was made aware of the need to see additional post-market data on the device in order to better understand the adverse effects that were brought up during the meeting. Could this be the next big step in getting Essure off the market? Only time will tell, and we’ll do our best to keep you posted.
Mercedes-Benz Drives Customers to Legal Action
It’s an old cliché that your mechanic will try to sell you things you don’t need, fix things that aren’t broken and generally just try to rip you off. In reality, there are plenty of mechanics who are honest and helpful and who aren’t concerned with finding new ways to get at our hard-earned money. Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz is accused of the former. A proposed class action has now been filed in California and claims that the automaker has been lying to customers about the origin of the parts they use in repairs.
The suit says that Mercedes has been falsely telling customers that they’re getting name brand parts when they bring their vehicles in for repairs. Even though customers are being charged for these higher-end parts, Mercedes is allegedly using knockoffs – which cost about half of what a brand name part would.
This is all despite the fact that Mercedes advertises that it only uses original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and vouches for the superiority of name-brand parts to non-genuine replacements. They even stated that OEM parts should be used whenever a customer is making a repair to increase the durability and longevity of their vehicles and how use of these parts is a condition of a continuing warrantee of the car. Based on how much each customer was allegedly overcharged for knockoff parts, the damages in the suit could total at least $6.6 million.
Former WD-40 Manufacturer Fed-up with DOT
IQ Products Company, a former manufacturer of WD-40 lubricant, filed suit against the Department of Transportation claiming that the agency’s enforcement efforts regarding the safety of WD-40 aerosol cans are “grossly inadequate.” IQ alleges that the DOT simply brushed off concerns that the canned lubricant lacked structural integrity and, in turn, could suddenly explode. Now, it’s not WD-40 Company (WDFC) that IQ is suing over the use of improper safety measures in their products – well, not this time, at least.
In 2012, the same year IQ stopped manufacturing WD-40, the company sued WDFC over a violation of contract. Allegedly, WDFC made some pretty hasty design changes in order to save on costs. The valves, the cans, and even the mixture itself were all replaced with cheaper alternatives, and the corners, well, they were cut – to bits. IQ went along with WDFC’s assurances that the cans were safe until one exploded on one of their manufacturing lines. The incident raised a few questions – because, believe it or not, explosions usually aren’t the first sign of strict safety compliance.
So, IQ cut its ties with WD-40 and started raising red flags, hoping for some good, old-fashioned, government regulation. But their warnings received little attention and even less action. IQ stated that because of the DOT’s failure to perform their due diligence, millions of cans of defective (and potentially dangerous) product have been sold. Even though IQ stopped manufacturing WD-40 three years ago, it claims to be stuck with more than 1,300 pallets of the cans it believes are illegal to distribute.
Chocolate Manufacturers Face Lawsuits over Human Rights
Three of the top ten largest chocolate producers aren’t being entirely honest when it comes to their manufacturing processes, recent lawsuits say. Hershey, Nestle and Mars have all been accused of illegally failing to disclose the use of African child slaves in the harvesting of their cocoa beans. The lawsuits state that consumers would not have bought the companies’ products had they known they were supporting slave labor.
In situations like these, companies tend to try and act oblivious to what’s going on within their supply chains. But in this case, it seems like the companies might just be turning a blind eye to known human rights abuses. And that’s very uncool.
The lawsuits look to certify classes of consumers who purchased chocolate products from the three companies over the last four years. When and if the suits settle, the large chunk of change they would have to pay out could serve as a huge deterrent to any company that uses slave labor in their manufacturing.
Suits like these play an important role and, ultimately, are about making constructive changes. This is how we as consumers can say that we will not support companies that knowingly violate human rights, even if it means forgoing our collective sweet tooth to get the point across.