Members of the Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday criticized Sears, Roebuck and Co., the nation's biggest retailer, for running the most unsuccessful recall campaign the agency has ever ordered.
Sears got back less than 1 percent of some 72,000 electric fans that the CPSC said were a possible fire hazard and did nothing but issue two press releases to warn customers of the danger, charged CPSC commissioner Sam Zagoria.
Zagoria called the recall rate "a black mark against Sears and a black mark against the commission," and demanded the agency take action against the retail giant.
Saying that "one percent is an unacceptable percentage," CPSC member Edith Barksdale Sloan warned, "at some point we've got to flex our muscles." e
But after denouncing Sears in an open public meeting the commission went into a closed session to decide what to do and announced afterward that no action would be taken at this time.
Zagoria launced a lengthy attack on Sears, saying the company should be expected to recall products with "something like the efficieny they achieve when they want to sell products.
After finding 11 fires and two injuries resulting from fans made by a subsidiany of Emerson Electric company, the CPSC a year ago ordered the appliances recalled. More than 75 percent of the fans were sold by Sears stores.
Sears officials in Chicago disputed the CPSC's version of their recall effort and challenged the seriousness of the fire hazard. "We took action well beyond what the commission sought," said Sears executive Ernest Arms, "for a recall that was highly questionable in the first place." He said 30 million Americans read the newspapers that carried accounts of the recall.
Zagoria claimed the Sears announcement was "passing the buck to the media," and urged the CPSC to order Sears to run advertisements recalling the fans.
The fans in question were made in 1973 and 1974 in 13-inch models that sold for about $30 and 19-inch models that sold for about $50 at Sears.
The Sears fans have a green plastic case and those made for other retailers are blue and carry the Vernco label. All have a five-digit date code ending with the number "3" or "4" stamped on the bottom and carry either Sears serial numbers 758.80530 or 758.80550 or Vernco model number V-1001 or V1003.