What Is the History of Federal Pacific Electric Company?

The Federal Pacific Electric Company designed, patented and sold circuit breakers, beginning with its first patent in 1949 and ending with its eventual bankruptcy. Its products were later found to be defective and dangerous.

In 1979, Reliance Electric Company bought Federal Pacific Electric Company from UV Industries, and was shortly thereafter bought by Exxon Corporation. But in 1980 Exxon sued, claiming that UV Industries had faked safety tests to gain UL listings for its products, and UL withdrew its safety endorsement.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission subsequently tested the products. Despite CPSC findings in 1984 that the circuit panels were faulty and dangerous, no recall was ever issued. Other independent testing indicated a failure rate of up to 60 percent, yet products still on the shelves continued to be sold. In 2002, a New Jersey court found in a class action lawsuit that Federal Pacific Electric Company had violated the New York Consumer Fraud Act by knowingly selling circuit breakers that did not meet UL safety standards, despite the UL endorsement on its label.

Potentially hazardous Federal Pacific Electric Company circuit panels can still be found in millions of homes built before 1990. They can be identified by the labels on the circuit panel’s front or side.