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Unlicensed bounce house companies operating illegally in western Massachusetts

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - A local bounce house company is sounding the alarm on a dangerous trend in western Massachusetts... unlicensed bounce house companies operating illegally.

A licensed bounce house company, that didn't want to be identified, contacted the I-Team about the issue. "People are finding them on craigslist or eBay, you don't what manufacturer they are, they don't meet guidelines. It's very unsafe for the public. People's children are at risk here, and our business is at risk."

He told the I-Team, it has been an issue for years now. "The children's safety is the number one concern. Many of these places have been operating knowingly unlicensed for 5 or 6-years."

Under state law, bounce house companies are legally required to have permits, inspections, and insurance. 

The I-Team found at least 6 companies in western Massachusetts that do not have the proper permits, which means there's no way of knowing whether they're following safety protocols.

The state confirmed that the companies are operating illegally, but declined multiple requests for an interview, even after we pointed out it's a public safety issue.

The I-Team made some personal visits, to try and track down the people behind the unlicensed bounce houses. Most weren't home, until we checked the final address, where found a bounce house and the owner.

The owner of the bounce house company told the I-Team, she had no idea she needed a license to operate a bounce house company, until she was reported to the state. "We received a letter, and I got a fine for $2,000. Ever since then we can't deliver then, we can just use them for our personal use."

She said she now has insurance, and is in the final steps of getting a license, so she can get her business back up and running. However, that's just one of six, which means 5 other companies are still operating illegally.

The Office of Public Safety and Inspections is in charge of  bounce houses.

They confirmed that 6-bounce house operators do not have the proper licensing, but the I-Team discovered,  they've only issued 3-fines over the past year. 

The Office told the I-Team, "They follow up on every report of illegal operators by contacting the reported companies directly by phone and correspondence."

They also said they share 22 inspectors with 11 division and boards in Massachusetts. On average, they inspect 3,000 amusement devices each year, and fine operators for violations when necessary. 

The Office of Public Safety and Inspections sent the I-Team the following statement:

"The Office of Public Safety and Inspections and the Division of Professional Licensure are committed to the safety and fun of Massachusetts consumers, families, and children enjoying inflatable amusements and continue to work to ensure that operators of these devices are licensed properly. While OPSI and DPL have not received any reports of injuries involving small inflatable amusements since 2015, both offices take any complaints of unlicensed amusement device companies seriously."

To see whether a bounce house company has the proper licenses, click here.
 


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