Maker Of Super-Powerful Desktop Magnets Must Recall Pieces, Provide Refunds

Image courtesy of (tomtom4388)

Nearly four years after federal regulators dealt a swift blow to the makers of super-powerful desktop magnetic toys Buckyballs, filing a lawsuit against the company and persuading retailers to stop selling the dangerous toys, a Colorado-based company has been ordered to recall similarly powerful magnets that can cause fatal injuries when swallowed. 

A U.S. District Judge this week banned Zen Magnets and its owner, Shihan Qu, from selling any more of the BB-sized magnets — known as “sculptural toys” — and ordered them to offer refunds to customers who have previously purchased the items, Courthouse News reports.

The final order [PDF], which makes a 2015 preliminary injunction on the sale of the toys permanent, directs Zen Magnets to destroy any remaining magnetic spheres in its possession.

According to the original complaint [PDF] against the company, Qu purchased 917,000 of the magnets at a substantial discount from Star Networks in July 2014. Days after the purchase, Star Networks agreed to recall the Star Magnet toys as part of an agreement with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

District Judge Christine Arguello ruled this week that Zen Magnets’ subsequent sale of the spheres after the Star Magnet recall violated the Consumer Product Safety Act.

Zen Magnets argued that by placing the magnets in different packaging and selling them under different names, the magnets were no longer covered by the recall.

The court didn’t see it that way, noting that such an interpretation would “allow manufacturers and importers of consumer products to simply circumvent (and effectively disarm)” the Consumer Product Safety Act “by merely repackaging recalled products as they saw fit.”

Under the court order, Zen Magnets must provide a refund for any returned magnets, with Arguello noting that allowing customers to return the product “will reduce the likelihood that such consumers are injured by those products.”

For years now, the CPSC has maintained that the magnets are dangerous. When a person ingests more than one of the magnets, they are attracted to each other in the digestive system, creating the potential for serious damages to intestinal tissue.

Nearly 3,000 incidents of children swallowing the small balls were reported to the CPSC during a five-year period from 2009 to 2013. Some of the accidents required emergency surgery because if two or more balls are swallowed, they can bind intestinal tissue together.

The saga of the super-powerful magnet began back in 2012 when the CPSC filed a lawsuit against manufacturer Maxfield & Oberton in order to stop them from selling their product Buckyballs.

The Commission claimed the company refused to issue a recall even after at least a dozen young children were reportedly hurt by swallowing the magnets, as well as teens and tweens who used the balls to make it look like their tongues are pierced.

The lawsuit led to a back and forth, with the company’s founder Craig Zucker dissolving the business in 2012. At that point, the CPSC could no longer sue the business, and instead went after Zucker and two other companies, including Star Networks and Zen Magnets.

In April 2015, a rule issued the by the CPSC went into effect, prohibiting the sale of magnets or magnet sets that are small enough to be swallowed and that have a high degree of magnetic attraction. Zen Magnets is challenging that rule, Courthouse News reports.

[via Courthouse News]

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