Whirlpool ordered to recall 500,000 fire risk dryers
THE COMPANY has been ordered by the government to recall up to half a million tumble dryers in an ‘unprecedented’ government recall, ‘four years’ after fire safety concerns ‘were first raised’.
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’. Specifically, the risk has been that lint could build up around the rear drum seal, fall onto the dryer’s heater, ignite and catach fire.
In May 2018, BBC Watchdog Live ‘uncovered cases’ where Whirlpool tumble dryers caught fire ‘after being fixed’, with the company having previously 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).
In 2017 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 told the government that Whirlpool ‘should be made to’ recall fire risk tumble dryers.
It had been angered by the company’s decision to close its replacement scheme for the two types of dryers, launched in 2015, and in February this year, consumer group Which? called for ‘clarity’ after 30 consumers reported that fixed dryers had caught fire, produced smoke or a burning smell. It had called for the government to publish its report into the Whirlpool dryers, noting that up to 500,000 ‘potentially dangerous’ machines could still be in UK homes.
The government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) began an investigation in May 2018 into the ‘effectiveness’ of Whirlpool’s approach and its ‘handling’ of the modification programme, but when its report was released in April, Which? criticised the OPSS’ reporting as ‘fundamentally flawed’, and said that the report ‘appears to favour Whirlpool’s interest over people’s safety’.
Now however, The Guardian has reported that Whirlpool has been ordered by the government, in an ‘unprecedented’ recall’, to take back 500,000 tumble dryers, in what the news outlet called a ‘dramatic escalation’ in the ‘long-running controversy’. Business minister Kelly Tolhurst commented: ‘Consumer safety is a government priority. We have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice. This is unprecedented action.’
Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who chairs the commons business, energy and industrial strategy, stated that ‘finally the government is at last showing some teeth and taking long overdue action on Whirlpool’, adding that Whirlpool had ‘proceeded at snail’s pace, leaving up to half a million unmodified and potentially unsafe tumble driers still in people’s homes’.
In response, a Whirlpool Corporation spokeswoman said in a statement: ‘Safety is our number one priority and we remain committed to resolving any affected tumble dryers that have not yet been modified. The crucial message to anyone who still owns an affected dryer and has not already had it modified by Whirlpool is to contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905.
‘In the meantime, anyone with an affected dryer that has not been modified should unplug it and not use it until the modification has been completed.’