Hewlett-Packard Recalls CSA Certified Products

October 28th, 2014

On August 26, 2014, Hewlett-Packard announced an enormous product recall of 446,700 power cables in Canada and 5,577,000 power cables in the United States.  All of these cables have been deemed unsafe, and all are CSA certified.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the HP cables “can overheat, posing a potential fire and burn hazard.”  And they’re everywhere.  “The power cords were distributed with HP and Compaq notebook and mini notebook computers and with AC adapter-powered accessories such as docking stations” over a period of about two years, “from September 2010 through June 2012.”

To date, there have been “29 reports of power cords overheating and melting or charring resulting in two claims of minor burns and 13 claims of minor property damage.”

So, did these cables meet the CSA standard?  If so, does that mean that the standard is defective?  But what if these cables didn’t meet the standard, then how did they achieve CSA certification? 

We have concerns with both eventualities.  We know that CSA has been selling influence over legislated standards and that manufacturers have been trading money for influence on CSA standards committees.  We also know that CSA safety testing sometimes doesn’t involve any testing at all.  We know that in practice, the CSA certification sticker means almost nothing.

What we don’t know is what went wrong with this certification.

To try and sort this out, we recently sent the following letter to Hewlett-Packard:

 

Dear [redact]:

Re: CSA Certification of Hewlett-Packard Devices


On August 26, 2014, Hewlett-Packard Company Ltd. (HP) initiated a recall of approximately six million AC Power Cords due to safety deficiencies.  We recently discussed this recall announcement with representatives of the HP Legal Division in the context of growing public knowledge of the standards development and consumer product safety testing practices of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), an agency of the Canadian Government.  We are concerned that the current recall of AC Power Cords (the Unsafe Product) may be related to compromised standards development activity and / or tampered, incomplete, or nonexistent product safety testing.

On this matter, we respectfully request your responses to the following:


1. The HP legal division initially advised that the Unsafe Product was safety tested by CSA at their Ohio testing facilities.  The HP legal division has subsequently withdrawn this position, now stating that they are unsure where and by which entity the Unsafe Product was independently tested.  In this context, could you clarify which entity furnished HP with independent safety testing of the Unsafe Product?

2. Did the performance of the Unsafe Product, representing the cause of the current recall, conform to the specific requirements of the certification standard(s) applicable to this product?

3. With regard to the Unsafe Product, to what extent and by what variances did HP’s original in-house performance testing results align with the original independent safety testing results?  Will you make these testing datasets available for review?

4. With regard to the Unsafe Product, to what extent, and by what variances, does HP’s current in-house performance testing results align with the original independent safety testing results?  Will you make these testing datasets available for review?

5. We note that the Unsafe Product recall is an HP branded recall.  Is HP therefore accepting that liabilities associated with the Unsafe Product were generated within HP by deficiencies in HP’s design or, conversely, is HP retaining the option of asserting that such liabilities originated with improper, incomplete, fraudulent, or nonexistent independent safety testing?

6. With regard to the CSA standard(s) applicable to the Unsafe Product, did HP at any time directly contribute to applicable CSA standard(s) development through CSA committee participation, or through indirect contributions through association, proxy or commercial alliance(s) with entities represented on CSA standard(s) development committees?

7. With regard to;  1) the certification date recorded on the Unsafe Product’s certification document, and;  2) the certification date recorded within CSA’s internal certification database:  Does HP affirm that to its best knowledge, both certification dates were concurrently recorded?

8. With regard to publicly reported CSA testing practices, has HP at any time made doubled or additional payments to CSA in order to secure expedited testing or to ensure specific test results?

9. With regard to publicly reported CSA certification sales practices, has HP at any time received blank safety certifications from CSA?

10. In the event that the Unsafe Product recall is the result of either defective or compromised CSA standards, or is the result of tampered, incomplete, or nonexistent product safety testing, does HP intend to pursue legal action for cost recoveries and / or liabilities against CSA or its parent, the Government of Canada?


Thank you for your consideration.

Regards,

[& signed]
[& CC]