‘Fresh fears’ raised over fire risk Whirlpool dryers
THE BBC’S Watchdog Live consumer programme ‘uncovered cases’ where Whirlpool tumble dryers have caught fire ‘after being fixed’.
Previously, Whirlpool faced criticism for failing to recall up to one million dryers posing fire risks, and its appliances caused ‘three times more’ London fires than any other manufacturer, according to London Fire Brigade (LFB). Last year a Welsh coroner said the company’s ‘reluctance to digest inquest lessons’ was an ‘obstacle to preventing further deaths’, after two men died in a flat fire in Llanrwst, North Wales in October 2014.
The government’s business, energy and industrial strategy select committee was scathing of the revelation that one million faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers are still being used in the UK, and recently told the government that Whirlpool ‘should be made to’ recall fire risk tumble dryers, having been angered by the company’s decision to close its replacement scheme for the two types of dryers, launched in 2015.
Since 2004, over 750 domestic fires ‘are thought to have been started’ by affected dryers under the Hotpoint, Creda, Indesit, ProLine and Swan brands, with ‘fluff in contact with the heating element’ catching fire. Whirlpool has replaced or repaired around 3.8m dryers after identifying the fault in November 2015, but did not issue a recall, initially notifying customers that ‘they could continue to use their dryer while waiting for modification’.
This was provided dryers were ‘not left unattended’, but the advice changed in February 2017 when Whirlpool told consumers to ‘unplug and stop using the machines’, though even ‘upgraded’ versions have caught fire, ‘prompting the new demand for a formal recall’. Now, BBC News has reported on the Watchdog programme’s revelations, which included that some machines ‘have caught fire after being fixed’.
The show spoke to Vicki Mudge and Jemma Greenslade, who ‘had to drag’ a burning tumble dryer out of their flat that ‘had earlier been modified’, with Ms Greenslade stating that ‘you do trust them to think they are fixing something so it is going to be ok. It is disgusting really’, and living in a block of flats, both said that ‘the fire could have been a risk to their neighbours’.
Charlie Pugsley, deputy assistant commissioner at London Fire Brigade, was ‘seriously concerned’ about the reports, adding: ‘There is going to be a time delay between the modification and the fires occurring so if we are starting to see one or two, I would imagine it is only going to get worse. Each fire has got the potential to do huge damage to someone's home and risk lives.’
Whirlpool sent a statement, which read: ‘We have total confidence in the modification. Extensive testing and analysis of the modification both before and since its implementation has shown it provides an effective solution for the issue. An external review with the input from three independent experts in fire safety, product safety, and engineering, concluded that the modification remains the most effective way of rectifying this issue for consumers.
‘There have been no reported incidents where the modification has shown to be ineffective. Recent criticisms of the effectiveness of the modification are based on fundamental technical misunderstandings of what it addresses. We are concerned that such misinformed criticism risks discouraging consumers from registering for this important safety modification.
‘We continue to urge consumers to contact us immediately if they believe they still own an affected appliance. We can assure consumers that if they contact us now, they can receive a resolution within one week.’