Columbia suspends future Omni-Heat Electric program after recall

Columbia Sportswear officials told SNEWS Wednesday that the company is suspending its Omni-Heat Electric program moving forward, after having to recall its fall 2012 lineup of jackets due to a wiring malfunction and possible burn hazard.
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Columbia Sportswear officials told SNEWS Wednesday that the company is suspending its Omni-Heat Electric program moving forward, after having to recall its fall 2012 lineup of jackets due to a wiring malfunction and possible burn hazard.

“For the time being, we’ve decided to take a break with Omni-Heat Electric,” said Ron Parham, Columbia’s director of corporate communications. “The earliest we might recommit to the program would be fall 2014.”

Columbia will continue to sell through its fall 2011 Omni-Heat Electric styles — including jackets, vests, gloves and boots — along with its vests, gloves and boots from fall 2012 that were not affected by the recall. There will be no new Omni-Heat Electric styles sold in any category for fall 2013.

Columbia is issuing full refunds to consumers for the recalled jackets and had already instructed its retailers to pull the jackets and return them through the normal return-authorization process. Parham said company officials estimate the hit from the recall will cost Columbia in the low single-digit millions, which was accounted for in the company’s recently issued preliminary fourth-quarter earnings report.

Parham said the recall was spurred by one report in Canada and another in Europe where misaligned wires at the wrist of the jackets short-circuited, overheated and melted through the fabric. Officials are still working to determine whether the problems are isolated incidents or widespread within the 2012 jacket lineup.

“Fortunately, there were no injuries, but at the end of the day, we didn’t want to put any of our consumers at risk,” Parham said.

As previously reported by SNEWS, Columbia, in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, issued a recall Tuesday for all seven styles of its fall 2012 Omni-Heat Electric jacket lineup.

The recall involves about 9,600 men’s and women’s jackets in the United States and 640 in Canada sold between May 2012 and January 2013 under the following 2012 Columbia Omni-Heat styles:

>> Men’s Circuit Breaker II Jacket - SM7051
>> Men’s Electro AMP Jacket - SM7061
>> Men’s Electro Interchange Jacket - SM7886
>> Men’s Electric Big Game Interchange Jacket - HM7198
>> Women’s Circuit Breaker II Jacket - SL7022
>> Women’s Electro AMP Jacket - SL7021
>> Women’s Electro Interchange Jacket - SL7885

Retailers and consumers with the recalled jackets should disconnect both batteries from the electrical connections inside the battery pouches and contact Columbia Sportswear for a full refund with proof of purchase, officials said.

This isn't the first recall for the Omni-Heat electric technology, although it's the largest and the first time entire jackets have had to be recalled. In late 2012, Columbia issued a recall for Omni-Heat's battery packs, which posed a risk of overheating and causing a fire. In mid 2011, a similar recall went out for the battery packs.

--David Clucas

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