Whirlpool should ‘be ordered’ to recall fire risk dryers

Whirlpool should ‘be ordered’ to recall fire risk dryers

THE BUSINESS, energy and industrial strategy select committee of MPs has told the government that Whirlpool ‘should be made to’ recall fire risk tumble dryers.

Previously, Whirlpool faced criticism for failing to recall the 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, while the MP’s committee was also scathing of the revelation that one million faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers are still being used in the UK.

The Guardian reported on the committee’s demand that Whirlpool ‘be ordered to recall millions of tumble dryers’ that ‘pose a serious risk of bursting into flames’, with Labour MP and chair of the committee Rachel Reeves writing to ministers to demand they take action over Whirlpool’s inability to ‘take proper responsibility’ for the defects.

The committee had been angered by Whirlpool’s decision to close its replacement scheme for the two types of dryers, launched in 2015. They wrote to Whirlpool asking why it had ‘chosen to end the scheme’, and urged it to repair machines ‘within two weeks of being contacted’, or explain action it plans to take, calling its previous response ‘inadequate’. 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’.

Reeves stated: ‘Whirlpool continue to refuse to take proper responsibility for defects in their tumble dryers, leaving many people still in the frightening situation where machines are acting as potential fire hazards in their own homes. We need the government to step in and ensure consumers get the protection they deserve. Given the woeful paucity of Whirlpool’s actions to remedy this situation, the Office for Product Safety and Standards must now act and consider a full recall of defective machines to ensure this national product safety issue is resolved.’

Which’s Alex Neill added: ‘Their approach to handling the issue for customers has been an absolute shambles. There are still serious concerns about whether Whirlpool’s modification programme is actually effective. It’s time for a full recall.’

Whirlpool responded: ‘We proactively raised this product safety issue in 2015 and have worked diligently and responsibly to resolve it. The scale of this campaign has been unprecedented as we have achieved a resolution rate more than three times the industry average for a product recall. We have provided resolutions to all consumers who have registered, and resolved over 1.7m affected tumble dryers.

‘We have total confidence in the modification, it was extensively tested before and after being implemented, and there have been no incidents where it has shown to be ineffective. 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.

‘Recent criticisms of the effectiveness of the modification are based on fundamental technical misunderstandings of what it addresses. We have cooperated with Trading Standards and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy at every stage of the campaign. Trading Standards confirmed, following an internal review by independent experts, that the modification programme remains the most effective way of resolving this issue.

‘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.’