Thursday, April 19, 2007

Japanese Toilet-Maker Lands In The Hotseat

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's second-biggest toilet maker INAX Corp. has joined porcelain powerhouse Toto with tales of smoking toilets and burning bidets.

INAX, owned by JS Group Corp., said it had not made public seven cases of malfunctioning "washlets" -- a combination toilet and bidet common in Japanese homes -- that smoked or caught fire from 1991 to 2005.

The company said it had reported the incidents to the appropriate government ministry and no one was injured.

INAX's announcement followed an apology Monday from Toto Ltd., which revealed that 26 malfunctioning washlets had emitted smoke and another three had caught fire.

Tadafumi Morioka, head of INAX corporate communications, said the company had recalled 30,000 toilets in 1985 due to cases of overheating and fire involving bidet-type models.

Market leader Toto said Wednesday it would check 180,000 Washlet Z-series units made over a two-year span for possible repairs, but it added that no injuries had been reported.

Spokesman Yasuhiko Matsumoto said Toto, known for high-tech washlets with warm seats, blow-dryers and even air purifiers, had received over 100,000 telephone calls since Monday.

"We've been promoting a culture of washing one's backside since 1980, and that's given us a 60 percent market share. We want customers to contact us as soon as possible if there's a problem," Matsumoto said.

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