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Current Events in July 1999

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    Ranch King Tractors

    WASHINGTON, July 29 -- WCI Outdoor Products is recalling about 1,600 Ranch King tractors to repair a fuel line.

    The existing fuel line on these tractors can be misrouted near the ground drive belt or steering gears, which can result in it becoming damaged or cut, and allowing gasoline to spill. This poses a risk of fire and burn injuries to consumers.

    The recall was announced in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

    WCI says it has received one report of a minor fire and two reports of damaged fuel lines. No injuries have been reported.

    There are two models of the tractors being recalled. There are more than 1,500 Ranch King 18.5 HP tractors being recalled, with the manufacturer's ID: RK185H46A. There are more than 150 Ranch King Pro 20 HP tractors being recalled, with the manufacturer's ID: RK20H46A. The recalled tractors' serial number ranges are listed below:

    18.5 HP Tractors
    20 HP Tractors 022399D 001802 - 022399D 002071
    032299D 002072 - 032299D 002701
    032499D 002702 - 032499D 003331 022399D 001602 - 022399D 001761

    The serial number and manufacturer's ID are on a label affixed to the fender, under the seat. These hydrostatic drive tractors were sold with a 46-inch mower deck. "Ranch King" or "Ranch King Pro" are written on the sides of these tractors.

    Quality Farm & Fleet stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee sold these tractors exclusively. They were sold from February 23, 1999 through May 28, 1999 for $1,399 or $1,699, depending on the model purchased.

    Consumers should stop using these tractors immediately. Consumers should call WCI Outdoor Products, Inc. to determine if their tractor is part of this recall, and to arrange for a free repair if needed. For more information, call WCI Outdoor Products, Inc. at (888) 677 2995 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EDT Monday through Friday. Consumers should have the manufacturer's ID and the serial number of their tractor available when they call.

    ConsumerAffairs.Com complaints about Tractors...
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    Movers Hold Consumers Hostage

    WASHINGTON, July 5, 1999 -- Even Congress is beginning to recognize that consumers need protection from rogue interstate movers. As part of its effort to balance the budget, Congress in 1995 eliminated the Interstate Commerce Commission, which, among other things, had regulated interstate movers.

    Meanwhile, old laws continue to prohibit states from effectively regulating interstate movers. The result: open season on consumers moving their household goods from one state to another.

    Each year about two million American families move across state lines, spending $7 billion a year on movers. More and more of them are being mercilessly ripped off.

    "It's out of control," Larry Kaplan, president of the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, told the Los Angeles Times recently.

    Kaplan and other consumer advocates say that rogue movers are multiplying rapidly -- and established moving companies are no longer very quick to settle consumer complaints.

    Here's a typical scam:

    • A consumer calls directory assistance and asks for the number of a well-known moving company, but gets the number of a fly-by-night company with a similar name.
    • The company provides a low-ball estimate and the consumer signs a contract.
    • The movers pack up the consumer's belongings but then refuse to deliver or unload them at the other end, demanding immediate payment of a much higher fee.
    • There is almost no one a consumer can turn to for help in this situation. Interstate movers are beyond the reach of state courts and state attorneys general.

    Kaplan estimates consumers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars since Congress eliminated the ICC and left individuals to find for themselves.

    On Capitol Hill, Rep. Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis) says he plans to seek legislation that would let states prosecute interstate movers. Petri chairs a House subcommittee on surface transportation.

    Movers Hold Consumers Hostage...
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    Avoid Deadly Grilling Dangers

    WASHINGTON, July 1, 1999 -- As consumers get ready to fire up their grills this Independence Day weekend, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is releasing safety tips for using charcoal and gas grills, and reminding consumers of two recalls of gas grills.

    In November 1998, CPSC and Sunbeam Products Inc. recalled for repair about 80,000 Grillmaster gas grills with side burners. The side burner's propane gas hose on these grills can twist up toward the aluminum casting of the grill, causing overheating and melting of the hose. Gas leakage or a fire could result from the hose damage. To get a free repair kit or for more information, call Sunbeam toll-free at (888) 892-8150 anytime.

    In May 1999, CPSC and Kmart announced a recall of about 40,000 Tru-Burn Portable LP Gas Grills because their burner manifolds can separate during use and ignite nearby combustibles. For more information, call Kmart toll-free at (800) 63KMART anytime.

    Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

    Each year, there are about 20 deaths from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and more than 300 emergency room treated injuries from CO poisoning resulting from charcoal grills. Charcoal produces CO when burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. To reduce these CO poisonings, CPSC is offering the following safety tips:
    • Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers.
    • Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
    • Since charcoal produces CO until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.

    Gas Grill Safety Tips

    Liquid petroleum (LP) gas or propane, used in gas grills, is extremely flammable. Each year more than 500 fires occur when people use gas grills and about 20 people are injured as a result of gas grill fires and explosions. Many of these fires and explosions occur when consumers first use a grill that has been left idle for a period of time or just after refilling and reattaching the grill's gas container.

    To reduce these risks, consumers should:

    • Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease.
    • Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
    • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks.
    • Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
    • Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If you can't move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.
    • Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.
    • If you detect a gas leak, immediately turn off the gas at the tank and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
    • Keep lighted cigarettes, matches, or open flames away from a leaking grill.
    • Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from any building. Do not use the grill in a garage, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.
    • When lighting the grill, keep the top open. If the grill does not light in first several attempts, wait 5 minutes to allow gas to dissipate.
    • Never attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.
    • Use caution when storing LP gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill. Never store a full container indoors. Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.
    • To avoid incidents while transporting LP gas containers, consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position. Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, causing the relief valve to open and allowing gas to escape.

    CPSC worked with the industry to develop a new voluntary standard to prevent LP gas leaks. Grills meeting this standard will shut themselves off if a gas leak occurs.

    Avoid Deadly Grilling Dangers...
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