February 10, 2010 Update:
LaCrosse announced it has identified the problem behind the rash of battery charger meltdowns and is voluntarily replacing the affected A/C adapter, which is outputting too much voltage. If you have a LaCross BC-9009 purchased between October 1st 2009 and January 15, 2010 and your A/C adapter has the roman numeral “IV”, please discontinue use IMMEDIATELY and follow this defective product recall link for a free replacement.
January 22 – 5 PM update: Just hours after I posted this update and shared my concerns that despite Amazon no longer directly selling this defective product, their Amazon Marketplace sellers could still sell it on Amazon, I received an update email from this thread on Candle Power Forums letting me know that the product is no longer available. I’m not sure if the last Marketplace seller with inventory sold their last unit, if they removed their listing on account of my email to them, or if Amazon had something to do with this but at the end of the day this dangerous and defective product is no longer available online.
It took just over a month since I first reported a problem with the La Crosse BC-9009 battery charger and it required the help of the online community at Candle Power Forums and the 25+ Amazon customers who contributed an online review sharing their meltdown stories. As of last night Amazon has concluded their item review and no longer sells the defective battery charger in question.
I also checked with Thomas Distributing, as I contacted them when I experienced my meltdown to see if they have had similar experiences with defective battery chargers, which they have had, and they too no longer carry the product. Here is their empty page where the defective charger used to be sold. I asked if this action was due to a La Crosse recall and was told that Thomas Distributing made the decision. This is significant because it demonstrates the power that consumers and can have on retailers. It also demonstrates that La Crosse is not the one causing the Amazon or Thomas Distributing changes.
Unfortunately Amazon has not de-listed the defective product so at the time of this writing there is still one Amazon Marketplace retailer who is still carrying the product. I’ve sent them an email to inform them of the high failure rate as likely they are not even aware there is a problem with the product.
I also noticed that Buy.com no longer carries the product and list the product as “currently unavailable” with the explanation of “This product is currently unavailable from the Manufacturer”. I’ve placed a call with their PR person to see if they have any further details as to why they are not carrying the defective product. They still sell the BC-700, a similar product that appears to not have the meltdown issues that does the more expensive BC-9009.
Since this problem first came to my attention there have been several things have bothered me along the way.
1 – The US Consumer Product Safety Commission works too slowly. They are the agency with the authority to issue a nationwide US recall. Once they receive a report their process is to mail a confirmation letter and await a response before they will start an investigation. I was told they only do mailings ONCE PER MONTH! I’m now just past 30 days and have not received a letter. So it is still possible that it comes in a day or two but it is likely that they are not even living up to that performance expectation. I was also surprised that I was the first person to make a report.
2- After a pretty steady pattern of one user report on Amazon per day, all of a sudden on January 7 there were 7 user reviews in one hour, all giving the BC-9009 positive reviews. This in itself wasn’t the fishy part. The reviews all appeared to be shill reports with users having little or no review history and even some with surnames that were judged to be obvious fakes because of incorrect spelling of their own surnames. This one even cheered-on La Crosse, like they were part of a team, a team charged with burying all the negative user reports off the main page, which they accomplished, until additional user reports of meltdowns replaced them.
5 STARS TO LACROSS…………YEA TEAM!!!!!!!!!
So for now the product appears to be off the marketplace from merchants that have a visible online presence. I’d still feel more comfortable with a recall and requirements that La Crosse subject their battery chargers to a third party certification process, such as Underwriters Laboratories. But in the mean time I’m recommending and using these rechargeable battery chargers for my AA & AAA batteries:
Ansmann Energy 8 Plus (also charges 9v)