Peloton — the home exercise company that was a high-profile darling of the closed economy — agreed to the fine to settle charges related to a series of incidents that culminated in the child’s death in 2021.
“Peloton remains deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our members and to the continuous improvement of our products,” company spokesman Ben Boyd said in a statement, adding that the company was “pleased to reach this settlement agreement.”
The incidents involved people being pulled under the company’s high-end Tread Plus treadmill. In addition to the one death, there were reports of broken bones and deep cuts.
Peloton eventually pulled its Tread Plus treadmills in May 2021, a move it bitterly fought over with regulators — leading to an unusual public war of words and an apology from Peloton’s then-CEO.
“We made a mistake in our response,” John Foley said on an earnings call at the time.
The recall came near the start of a long difficult period for Peloton as demand for its stationary bikes and treadmills fell coronavirus pandemic shutdowns are eased. It shed thousands of jobs, along with more than half of its stock price. Foley, who co-founded Peloton, resigned as CEO in September.
In November, Peloton said it was still struggling to turn around the Internet-connected fitness empire that at one point defined the “stuck-at-home” pandemic experience for millions of Americans.
Peloton first learned of problems with its treadmills in late 2018 and, instead of notifying safety regulators, moved the warning labels to the back of its treadmills where the jams occurred, according to the settlement.
The company also considered the feasibility of changing the design to add rear protection before the child died in March 2021, the settlement said.
But Peloton didn’t notify the CPSC of the problems until a day after the fatal accident.
Until then, the company was aware of more than 150 reports of people, pets and objects being sucked under its treadmills, the settlement said.
Peloton at the start was unwilling to voluntarily withdraw the treadmills, prompting the CPSC to take the rare step of issuing its own warning to the public to stop using the fitness machines. Peloton responded with a statement refuting the CPSC’s claims. The company eventually gave up.
The CPSC has become increasingly willing to hit businesses with civil penalties. In July, Vornado Air agreed to a $7.5 million fine for problems related to the ignition of its heaters. TJX Companies — the parent company of retailers TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods — agreed to a $13 million fine in August for knowingly selling recalled products.
Peloton fines dwarf both, but are just shy of the $27.5 million paid by Polaris Industries in 2018 for failing to report defective off-road vehicles.
CPSC’s settlement with Peloton was approved in a 4-0 vote by the agency’s commissioners.
“When a company continues to sell dangerous products it knows can cause serious injury or death, it must be held accountable,” CPSC Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Sarich said in a statement.
Peloton hasn’t given up on its Tread Plus treadmill.
Boyd, the company spokesman, said it is still trying to get CPSC approval for a rear guard — a sign the treadmill could be back on the market.
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