Tougher consumer product liability law enacted

Kyodo News

The House of Councilors passed into law Wednesday a bill requiring manufacturers and importers to report serious accidents caused by their products.

The amendments to the Consumer Product Safety Law, due to take effect in spring, were prompted by a string of fatal and other serious injuries caused by gas-powered water heaters made by Paloma Industries Ltd., among others.

Producers of cars and pharmaceuticals are required by other laws to report accidents, but the new regulation applies to all other consumer products.

Upon learning about deaths, injuries, fires and other serious accidents caused by their products, companies will be obliged to inform the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the details of the incidents within 10 days.

METI will then post the generic names of the products in question on its Web site within a week and disclose the specific product names and the companies that sell them when it believes there’s a risk that damage will spread.

According to the revised law, the penalty for deliberately concealing facts about damage caused by products will be a maximum prison term of one year or a fine of up to 1 million yen.

The revised law came into being after METI was criticized for failing to issue prompt warnings about faulty Paloma water heaters that have killed 21 people over two decades, and incidents in which children lost their fingers while playing with shredding machines.