/ Home & Energy

Beko fridge freezer fires: should there be tougher penalties?

Fridge freezer

An inquest into a fire fatality has concluded that a Beko fridge freezer was at fault. It’s now been recommended that there should be tougher penalties for manufacturers that fail to recall faulty products.

Santosh Benjamin Muthiah, a 36-year-old father of two, died after a fire broke out in his home in north London in 2010. An inquest into his death has now concluded that it was caused by a defective defrost timer in his Beko fridge freezer.

As many as 500,000 fridge freezers made between 2000 and 2006 could be affected by the same problem. However, a recall wasn’t issued until after Mr Benjamin-Muthiah’s death in 2010, despite the court hearing that Beko had been aware of faults as early as 2003.

Recommendations on faulty product recalls

The coroner leading the inquest made a number of recommendations to ensure greater protection for product owners. These include:

• Stronger penalties for manufactures that fail to recall products, including a possible prison sentence.
• It being mandatory for appliances to carry flame-proof labelling so they can be identified after a fire.
• The creation of a government-funded website to record product recalls.

As it currently stands, manufacturers can be fined £5,000 for failing to notify authorities of faulty products. This compares to the average cost of recalling an appliance, which is £11m.

Beko fridge freezer owners comment

More than 400 comments were shared by Beko fridge freezer owners here on Which? Conversation. This includes Katherine, who commented last year:

‘On 20 July 2013 we were woken up at 3:30am, to the sound of our smoke alarms. My husband dashed out of bedroom and ran down stairs to discover that there was a fire in the utility room were the fridge freezer was located. We got our three children out of the house quickly and called for the fire services. They put out the blaze and soon confirmed that the fire started at the back of the fridge freezer.

‘Beko has since sent out an engineer and a forensic fire investigator who confirmed that the capacitor on the back of the fridge was the cause of the fire. It has been such a devastating experience for me and my family.’

We welcome the call for tougher penalties – your safety must be top priority, so manufacturers must act fast to recall products as soon as they realise they’re faulty. We also want the Government to do more to analyse and release the data held on appliance fires, and to put more pressure on manufactures to reduce the thousands of fires currently caused by faulty products.

Do you think there should be tougher penalties for manufacturers that fail to recall products after discovering a fault? Would you find a website that records all product-recalls useful?

Should there be tougher penalties for manufacturers that don't recall potentially dangerous faulty products?

Yes (98%, 986 Votes)

No (1%, 11 Votes)

Don't know (1%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,007

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If you own a Beko fridge freezer that’s more than seven years old, find advice on what to do in our Beko fridge freezer fire Q&A.

Comments
Guest

The directors of any company manufacturing products that kill people due to faults should be prosecuted. Only the threat of jail time will ensure that safety is put before profits.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Over half a million dishwashers made by Bosch have still not been accounted for: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2014/05/recalled-hotpoint-and-bosch-dishwashers-still-unaccounted-for-368967/ Some of them were branded Hotpoint but manufactured by Bosch.

We need to explore ways of ensuring that owners of recalled appliances can be contacted. Many are reluctant to register their products with the manufacturer because of the risk of their details being used for marketing.

Fires involving kitchen appliances are not uncommon. Fit smoke alarms in kitchens and utility rooms, never leave them unattended or running overnight except where this is essential, as with fridges and freezers.

Profile photo of b martin
Guest

Based on the comments on Which Conversations it would appear that Beko products have a large number of faults compared with other makes. I wonder why people buy Beko products.
I agree with Jay that the directors of companies should be prosecuted.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

In my postings in 2013 here I suugested that at least Which? members who provided the basis of an accurate database of equipment that they owned could be contacted by Which? Of course they could also be the source of the warning on products as the database would show problem rates to number owned of a particular device.

Having a central database of faulty products/ recall notices would seem a very basic and obvious requirement however in my search a few weeks ago all I could find on a UK or EU level was products that were dangerous. There are a couple of defunctish websites offering recall information but whether you would feel safe using these I doubt. The sites that promise copies of lost operating manuals I regard as unsafe and in fact claim to provide manuals that they do not possess.

Until there is a proper product database in place, and if necessary all manufacturers should provide sales figure of each product to a central source so rate per thousand can be establshed, then the companies will be able to downplay and ignore problems.

I do think criminal liability for Directors is an excellent way to go particularly for the very large multi-nationals where fines area tax-loss and those that make the decisions are very high in the food chain and insulated from the flak.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Where deliberate action to conceal, or gross negligence in not correcting and reporting for recall, life-threatening defects can be proven then severe penalties should be imposed. However, it is rare that one individual will be responsible. So prison is not normally a useful option, unless you want token retribution. Mistakes in the past, whether in products, services (rail accidents for example), military or security services accidents, although tragic are rarely down to deliberate negligence on the part of one individual.
For commercial companies, widely publicising the incident and the failure of the company would, in my view, inflict damage on the companies trading to an extent that would be a deterrent – or an incentive to be more careful.
As dieseltaylor says, a database of significantly defective products would be sensible. For those who bother, it would guide them not only in products to avoid but possibly also brands to avoid. Which? could lead the way in giving consumers this kind of information?

Guest
Mrs E Westrap says:
4 October 2014

I have just bought a Beko Freezer on 29/9/14.The model is Beko FXF5075W FRFREEZ.
as it not due to be delivered until 12 November 2014′
and having just read your article on Beko due you know
if they are safe to use?I will see if I can cancel it otherwise.
I am a which subscriber.please advise me.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Companies occasionally have to recall products because they could be unsafe. The problem here is that Beko did not take prompt action when they were aware of faults.

The ‘Electrical Safety First’ website, allows you to search for recalled electrical products. Recalling a product can be very expensive and is bad for the reputation of the brand, so there may be other companies aware of faults but keeping quiet about them.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have a smoke detector in every room, especially where electrical appliances are left on unattended.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

Good find wavechange. Thanks for that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_Safety_First

Profile photo of Alex Toplis
Guest

Hi Mrs Westrap, the Beko fridge freezer fires was a fault with models manufactured between 2000 to 2006 and your new fridge freezer is not included on the product recall list.

This link will give you a full guide on the issue and the models recalled:
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/guides/beko-fridge-freezer-fire-risk-qanda/

If you are still worried you can look into returning the product. However, part of this does depend on whether you bought the fridge online or in person in store.

If you bought it online then the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply (http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-contracts-regulations) and you have 14 days from the day you receive it to cancel the contract and send it back.

If you bought it in a shop you won’t have an automatic right to reject the product and get your money back. But, if the shop you bought it from has a returns policy, then the retailer is required by law to adhere to its own returns policy.

You may also find the two links below useful:
http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/i-want-to-return-my-goods-what-are-my-rights
http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/i-want-to-return-something-bought-online-

Guest

We’ve got separate Beko fridge (TLDA 521W) and freezer (TZDA 524F). Purchased in 2008, they were Which? Best Buys, and have been faultless.

It appears that it’s the fridge/freezer that is the problem.

Guest
P Chadwick says:
4 October 2014

I bought a Beko Fridge Freezer, a few years ago, and the compressor failed completely after less than 2 years, requiring an expensive replacement. On contacting Beko, I was told by a very rude young guy ” Its out of warranty, so it’s not our problem” What great customer service ! I’ll never buy Beko product again.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Although manufacturers are sometimes helpful, they currently have no legal responsibility for goods that fail outside the warranty period. They should have referred you to the retailer, though the retailer could expect you to provide evidence that the product was faulty at the time of manufacture to qualify for free repair under the Sale of Goods Act.

The best solution is, I believe, to look for products with a free extended warranty.

Fridges and freezers are generally fairly reliable, irrespective of brand.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

wavechange – I think your advice is wrong and to be honest I am a little surprised.

No compressor on a fridge should fail within two years and therefore the retailer is liable for the replacement. It is not a case of proving anything – compressors are built for years and years of work.

In this instance I would imagine for the retailer it would be a simple task of replacing the freezer and dedcuting the cost of a Beko invoice.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Dieseltaylor – To quote from the Trading Standards website:

“DAMAGES
You are entitled to claim damages from the trader to cover your losses if they were caused as a direct result of the goods being faulty . This is called consequential loss. For example, if your washing machine developed a fault and clothing was torn, you could claim for the cost of the clothing as well as seeking repair, replacement, full or partial refund from the trader.

Proving the fault
If you intend to reject the goods for a full refund because you have not accepted them, it is YOU, the consumer, who needs to prove that there has been a breach of contract in that the goods are not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose or as described at the time of purchase. If you have accepted the goods and are seeking repair or replacement within the first six months after purchase, it is for THE TRADER to prove that the goods conformed to the contract (were not faulty) at the time they were sold to you. If you are claiming repair or replacement more than six months after purchase, the burden of proof is back to YOU, the consumer.

If you are in dispute with the trader, you may need to obtain an expert opinion to establish what the problem is, how it was caused, what it will take to sort out the problem and who is to blame. Please see our ‘Getting Evidence to Prove Your Claim’ leaflet for more information”

A similar interpretation can be found on the Which? website.

You and I know that the compressors of fridges and freezers can be very reliable. I disposed of a 25 year old fridge because of a faulty door seal and I have a 35 year old freezer. This is not always the case and I had some very unreliable ones in my research labs along with ones that belonged in a museum. The problem is that durability is not defined by the Sale of Goods Act, which is why it is so difficult to get support from retailers.

At one time it was fairly common to include a ten year compressor warranty on domestic refrigeration equipment, but I believe that these disappeared when selling expensive extended warranties became popular.

I would love you to prove me wrong by giving examples of how you or others have been supported by retailers when products have failed between the end of the warranty and the six year (five in Scotland) period covered by the Sale of Goods Act. My comments to P Chadwick were intended not to offer false hope. With one major exception, I have had better support from manufacturers, despite the fact that they have no legal responsibility for dealing with out-of-warranty problems.

Guest
Bookworm says:
4 October 2014

Until recently there was a website – RecallUK (I think it was called) which gave details of recalls of many products from cars to household appliances, but it has now closed due to lack of funding. I don’t like registering my products because I don’t want marketing calls or emails or ordinary mail. If there was legislation to say that companies cannot use your data in such a way without express permission – not just a hidden opt out box – there might be more uptake of registration.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

RecallUK was closed because of lack of funding. The existing information remained accessible for a short time, but has now been withdrawn. Electrical Safety First has a searchable database that has improved greatly and is useful for electrical goods. VOSA has comprehensive information for cars.

The Rapex website maintains a comprehensive list of recalls within the EC, but I find it very difficult to use. I wish we still had RecallUK.

Guest
P Chadwick says:
5 October 2014

Ha, I didn’t expect such a lot of comment on my post. but for completeness :- I bought the Fridge Freezer from the now defunct Comet. Within a few days of it arriving, I complained to Comet about a strange Ghostly moaning/groaning noise coming from the appliance, something I had never heard my old, (25 year old) appliance make. They sent out an ‘Engineer’ who checked it over, and told me there was nothing wrong with it, and ” They all do that Sir, it’s the new refrigerant they have to use now.” and promptly gave me a receipt marked ‘Customer Education’. Being an Engineer myself, I thought this was complete rubbish, but what could I do but accept it…and then, as per my original post, the compressor failed within 2 years !

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

Firstly, thanks for posting more information. The first call-out then provides a reference point that all was not well. The requirement to prove something was faulty I think is a complete red herring where the failed item is already established – it is a compressor – compressors are not subject to some mythical lifespan they a known to be reliable longer lasting piece of kit.

I would spend some more time on this but have more important things currently to do. I would mention that bring consequential loss into the posting adds nothing to clarify durability/reliability apropos SoGA .

Andy Trigg is interesting as always:
http://www.whitegoodshelp.co.uk/faulty-appliances-sale-of-goods-act/

Citizens Advice Bureau I think agrees with me : )

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/consumer_e/consumer_common_problems_with_products_e/faulty_goods_e/what_is_meant_by_not_of_satisfactory_quality.htm

“Last for a reasonable length of time in a reasonable condition
The Sale of Goods Act 1979 doesn’t say exactly how long goods should last. The general rule is that goods should last for a reasonable time and in reasonable condition. For example, a new car should last for several years in a reasonable condition but you may need to replace some of its parts over time.
If goods don’t last as long as they should, they probably weren’t of satisfactory quality when you bought them. For example, if the sole on a shoe comes away after a few weeks of normal wear, this suggests that it was never of satisfactory quality.
You may need an expert’s opinion on how long a particular item can normally be expected to last.”

I would not expect to see the retailer wanting to pay for an expert witness fee on the length of life of a Compressor.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

As Andy says on his website: “Retailers and manufacturers have always stubbornly refused to entertain most claims for free repairs or compensation after the 12 month period and most consumers have historically accepted this even if begrudgingly at times.”

When he contributed to our discussion on washing machines he suggested that the responsibility for repairs etc. out of warranty should pass from the retailer to the manufacturer. I believe there is a good case for this because the cheaper washing machines are built to a very poor standard and now made in a way whereby a relatively simple task such as bearing replacement requires replacement of the entire tub assembly. If manufacturers were responsible for footing the bill for repairs, they would have to go back to making machines that could be repaired economically.

Any refrigeration service engineer should be able to confirm that while compressors on fridges and freezers tend to be reliable and can last a very long time, not all of them do so. As I mentioned earlier, ten year warranties on compressors used to be quite common and I see no reason why we can’t have ten year warranties on all fridges and freezers, which would protect those who are unlucky enough to have a premature failure.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

As SoGA covers such a vast range of products it is important to pin down “reasonable durability” for specific groups that give most problems – such as domestic appliances. Reasonable durability will depend upon the cost of a particular product; putting a time, or a number of cycles of use, that you should expect a product to last without fault should not be that difficult. It just needs effort by consumer organisations for example. 6 years was proposed for washing machines – seems OK to me.
However, some failures occur well before that – certainly 2 years for a fridge compressor should be seen as completely unreasonable and not meet the durability requirement. I’d be surprised if a small claims court would not feel the same way.

Guest
P Chadwick says:
5 October 2014

Nobody needs to spend any time on this at all, it was all sorted out years ago, It was just my experience of Beko, and Comets appalling customer service.

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

No problem Mr P . It is just a real life example to work through. It is interesting how despite much discussion some people are still bemused by SoGA.

As I often mention the Germans thing 9.5 years is where you test a washing machine to – and I go with them as what is acceptable. Afterall is there anyone else testing washing machines for 6 months solid?

Guest
Annette Crombie says:
8 October 2014

Our Beko dishwasher went on fire at work. It was just under 2 years old. I am the science technician in a high school and it was used for washing our glassware. Maybe it is not just fridge freezers that they have a problem with.

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Guest

Thanks for that. I would have thought that very unusual with dishwashers. Has the matter been resolved? Were the fire brigade there or informed?

Not collecting data is in my book a BAD thing! : )

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Guest

There was a recent recall for Hotpoint and Indesit dishwashers and some time ago, a huge recall of Bosch dishwashers sold under their name and other brands. A huge number of owners have not responded and are probably not aware of the problem, and the same applies with the Beko fridge-freezers.

I don’t see why kitchen appliances are made with materials that can catch fire. Metals are not a problem and plastics that are self-extinguishing are available. No doubt profits are more important than safety.

Guest
Annette Crombie says:
8 October 2014

3 fire engines attended, I was over an hour with the fire investigation team. They took a lot of photographs and were getting in touch with Beko

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

I cannot find a recall of Beko dishwashers although an incident in Derbyshire is reported on various websites including whitegoodshelp.

There is a small risk of kitchen appliances catching fire, irrespective of make: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2013/09/tvs-more-likely-to-catch-fire-than-irons-332851/

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

Thanks Annette for the details.

If only Which? set up its own database subscribers to compile their purchases and usage thereof, and repairs, and breakage, we could have a hugely useful reporting facility AND the ability to mail owners on recalls..
And cover other things like what percentage of complaints to owners is this.
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/steamers/logik-l90sss11/customer-views/

Guest
unhappy says:
20 November 2014

bought a bosch fridge freezer 4 months ago the compresser has broken, bosch are goi ng to repair. two questions could the compressor be a beko one, and could I have any redress for food that had to be thrown away, both bosch and retailer, not interested

Profile photo of Patrick Taylor
Guest

Bosch should be making their own compressors I would have thought. Your recourse is to the retailer – perhaps you could name them and also advise the Bosch model number.

Your household insurance may cover you though making a claim and taking into account any excess I doubt it will make much sense to claim on your insurance.

As to the retailer I would hope that as they sold a manifestly faulty product they would make a gesture[politely] by paying a sum. Legally I am wondering about consequential loss and perhaps trawling the Web will find some information for you.

Do please post the info as if there is a common fault for that model number we may yet get a datebase that is useful.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

The compressor may have a label showing the name of the manufacturer.

It is common for fridges and freezers to be fitted with compressors made by other manufacturers. Danfoss is an example of a large compressor manufacturer.

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Guest