Buckyballed: Consumer agency rolls recall case

Buckyballed: Consumer agency rolls recall case

Five years after targeting two magnetic products that were never declared unsafe, the Consumer Product Safety Commission settled for bitcoins.

CPSC estimated that recalling Buckyballs and Buckycubes — high-powered magnetic sets that can be shaped by hand — would cost $57 million. But when faced with a lawsuit, the federal agency took less than 1% of that amount, or $375,000.

Craig Zucker, former CEO of Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, called the settlement “a victory for me and for small-business owners across the United States.”

Dan Epstein, executive director of the public-interest group Cause of Action, which threatened to sue the agency, said the commission’s actions smacked of politics:

The CPSC’s actions regarding Craig Zucker are not about consumer safety, they’re about punishing an entrepreneur who dared to speak out against the federal government.

The years spent by the CPSC targeting a product that has never been declared unsafe and pursuing overzealous litigation against Craig Zucker are yet another example of a federal agency gambling with taxpayer dollars to test its own power.

In the heat of the battle, Zucker put up a “Save Our Balls” website that ridiculed government overreach. The site noted that similar magnetic products remained on the market while CPSC ordered retailers to pull Buckyballs from their shelves.

Maxfield & Oberton went out of business in December 2012.

Zucker said he spent more in legal fees than the $370,000 he will pay CPSC.

Epstein responded:

If the CPSC’s goal was consumer safety, why is it settling for an amount that covers less than 1 percent of its original $57 million recall estimate?

Cause of Action says CPSC has provided no answers to its multiple Freedom of Information requests. Said Epstein:

We’re continuing our FOI litigation to get transparency. Our ultimate strategy is to expose an agency that values retaliation against its critics above its own mission to protect consumers.

CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson termed the case “a win for the safety of children” and said no agency funds will be expended on the recall. He declined to say how much CPSC spent prosecuting the case.

Wolfson told this reporter that the $57-million recall cost “was overblown”:

Consideration needs to be given to the fact that six retailers conducted their own recall of Buckyballs and Buckycubes last year, and consumer product recalls traditionally have a 15-30 percent response rate.

Epstein calls CPSC’s tactics examples of “waste and abuse.”

“They apparently have no problem using the threat of a $57 million figure,” he observed.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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