/ Home & Energy

End Dangerous Products: the changes we’ve made and where next

burnt tumble dryer

Our campaign has pushed for major recalls, strengthening the regulatory system and identifying new challenges for four years. Here’s what we’ve achieved and where we’re heading.

When white goods manufacturer Whirlpool first announced a fault affecting more than five million of its tumble dryers in the UK in November 2015, resulting in them posing a fire risk, Which? was one of the first voices to call for an immediate recall of the affected appliances.

The company’s failure to do so and its flawed handling of a serious safety incident exposed the shortcomings of the UK’s product safety system, leading us to launch a campaign calling not just for Whirlpool to recall its dangerous dryers but for wider reform of the safety system.

And lots of you agreed with us. More than 165,000 people have now signed our petition calling for an end to dangerous products, while thousands of campaign supporters got involved by sharing their concerns with MPs and the regulator or telling us about safety issues they experienced here on Which? Conversation.

We’ve achieved some big wins as a result, bringing about real improvements to the system.

Our progress so far

In January 2018, the government set up a dedicated national regulator for product safety – the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

In July of this year, the regulator published new guidance on the use of non-disclosure clauses relating to safety incidents, after Which? raised concerns about the misuse of such agreements. 

On Whirlpool, last year the company was finally forced to recall its up to 800,000 unsafe tumble dryers still in UK homes, also publishing the full list of its 627 affected models that Which? had repeatedly called for.

As well as being offered a free replacement machine or repair, affected customers now also have the option of a partial refund. 

And it appears that Whirlpool is learning lessons when it comes to product safety. In December 2019, the company announced that it was voluntarily recalling more than 500,000 washing machines – again because they posed a fire-risk.

While there were still issues with its initial handling, the recall has resulted in one of the highest success rates for a white goods recall in the UK.

What happens next?

We’ve made great strides together in recent years but this doesn’t mark the end of our calls for change. 

We’re continuing to make the case for the new Office for Product Safety and Standards to be made independent with a clear duty for consumer protection and public safety.

This will ensure the UK’s product safety system will be able to meet new and global challenges head on and keep unsafe products from reaching people’s homes. 

Our testing has also uncovered large numbers of unsafe products being sold on online marketplaces, so we’re pushing for the sites to have greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their platforms – and hope to have your continued support as we do. 

For now, we want to take a moment to thank you for the change you’ve helped make so far.  

Comments
Ryan hutton says:
5 November 2020

I have received a recall letter just wondering what I do now

Hey Ryan,

Recall notices tend to be the most severe level of safety notice as there is likely some level of danger in using the product. The letter should contain instructions from the manufacturer about how the product recall will work, how long it will take, and what steps will be taken to make the product right (usually a repair or a replacement). You should also discontinue using the product at this stage, given the risk of danger or injury.

There’s full guidance on how these work, and your rights throughout the process, here: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/if-theres-a-product-recall-what-are-my-rights

What product did you receive a recall notice for?

Christopher Clow says:
13 November 2020

I would like the manufacturers to recall from customers and shops all of their products that prove to have a safety problem as soon as they become aware of the problem and post this information online and on the media. If they fail to do so the the government step in and order them to do so. I had a problem with Vauxhall and they recalled and made safe my car, only to recall and make safe a further three times. At which point I scrapped the car and will never buy another Vauxhall.

The manufacturer will not know who has purchased their product unless it was purchased direct or if a customer registers with them. The latter is voluntary of course and only captures a small proportion of sales.

For potentially dangerous products I have long proposed that we need a mandatory registration system so every purchaser has the opportunity to be contacted if there is a problem. It does not rely on the owner having to see a recall notice and then bothering to respond. I suggested that basic contact details have to be provided by the purchaser to the seller at the point of sale. A central database needs to be established to record and extract this information when needed.

Some talk about having “full recalls” – like Whirlpool washing machines for example. But they are not properly effective unless you know who has a suspect product and how to contact them.

There is no problem with car recalls because DVSA has contact details if there is a recall. I can understand why Chris is annoyed but at least he is getting to know that there is a problem. Some manufacturers have been unwilling to issue recalls. It took pressure from BBC Watchdog to get BMW to extend a recall to cover a large number of vehicles with a potentially dangerous fault: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-44050686

The problem with compulsory registration is that disreputable companies can use contact details for marketing purposes. Most recently I registered a Beko freezer and the company passed my contact details to Domestic & General, who called to try and sell me insurance, even though I had made it clear that I did not want cover when I registered the freezer. I’m not suggesting that all manufacturers do this.

There is no reason why compulsory registration registration should lead to unwanted contacts if, as I propose, the organisation is independent of manufacturers. I don’t get unwanted marketing material just because my car is registered with the DVSA. We need to do something positive.

I think it is still the DVLA, and not the DVSA, which maintains the registered vehicle and keeper databases. Any confusion is perfectly understandable.

Thanks John.
“What do the DVSA do?
We carry out driving tests, approve people to be driving instructors and MOT testers, carry out tests to make sure lorries and buses are safe to drive, carry out roadside checks on drivers and vehicles, and monitor vehicle recalls. DVSA is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Transport.

I am glad you now agree that registration must be independent of manufacturers, since you have argued otherwise in the past. 🙁

There are not many recalls, so perhaps Which? could do a weekly press release that might be picked up by the press. Alternatively CTSI could do this.

I have never suggested that my proposed mandatory recall system should be anything other than independent. What I have said is that, in its absence, you can register appliances with manufacturers – through AMDEA for many – that would enable recalls to be made. I would hope that you can opt out of marketing communications by doing this but, as an interim measure, when safety is at stake it might be better to tolerate that than cut off your nose to spite your face – so to speak. I have registered a number of products, ticked the no marketing box, and had no problems.

We must remember that it is not only for our own safety, but for that of our family and neighbours. I see safety as the priority.

I wish Which? would show more interest in urging the establishment of a proper recall system.

I thought you may be interested that when I was at the Electrical Safety Conference just a few years ago, when Amdea were promoting their register, 3 people from the floor stood up and said the same. Previously before that session, I was pointing out to my BEIS contact that there are issues about that Register, and that was one of them. I had told them that our independent Appliance Safety Register (out before Amdeas), would stop that. I had shown and pointed out to BEIS and now OPSS, exactly what was wrong with their register and proved that it was going to 3rd party warranty companies. It’s only late last year that Amdea changed that and now it goes directly to each manufacturer, which is what it should have done in the first place. I’ve had a few meetings with Amdea prior to that and suggested they work with our Register as it gave them that independency and we could also provide them with limited details of products registered. Our register is being upgraded and offers people an alternative where they may not trust the Manufacturers, but also it will be used to prevent waste and evidence that, whilst engaging safe repairers also creates pots of money to help communities where the waste prevention arises. I don’t think Manufacturers should have total control of the Appliance Market as it is wholly open to monopolisation.

I am not happy about Amdea. I cannot see why a trade organisation representing a significant number of companies should have a public presence other than perhaps to deal with complaints about members by members of the public. I absolutely agree with your last sentence.

A lack of understanding about trade organisations contributes to this sort of view. There is a hole in the system that no “official” body sought to plug. At least AMDEA made the attempt to increase product registration. I have registered products through them with being commercially harassed.

However, just to repeat my view, we need a compulsory registration system if we are to tackle full product recalls. Bodies like AMDEA and, presumably, Roberts, can help but are not the solution.

I will explain. My industry, for example, had a very effective trade association that gave members accredited laboratory and test facities, undertook education and training, liaised with public bodies to represent the industry and to advise on specialist matters, took part in national and international regulation, worked with other organisations on international standards, informed on current and new technologies. It represented a wide-ranging industry not individual manufacturers. It was an organisation that did a good job.

I expect this comment, from someone who is not cynical about anything to do with business and manufacturing, will achieve another down thumb.

Almost every sector has its organisation to represent their collective interests.

I presume you are referring to the Lighting Industry Association, which you have mentioned before, Malcolm. I have no problem with it providing its members with services.

Perhaps Amdea could ban its members from using customers’ contact details from marketing purposes. I gave an example where Beko did this to me. I have contacted ICO but perhaps I should contact Amdea too.

Over the years Amdea has used its website to promote sales of more efficient products without considering the payback time for the consumer or the environmental impact of manufacture and disposal of products – something that interests both of us.

Right from the start of our discussions I have been pushing for a recall system that is independent of manufacturers.

I have removed the down-thumb but please don’t imply that I have a lack of understanding of trade organisations in this context.

Those who want to know what AMDEA is about can look at their website. https://www.amdea.org.uk/
It summarises some of its work as:
” Our work includes:
Leading the creation and review of standards and regulation relating to the placing of goods upon the market within standards and regulatory bodies.
Working closely with UK Government and related bodies such as Consumer Interest Groups, Fire Brigades, Trading Standards; representing members’ interests and providing a conduit though which our members can engage with all stakeholders.
Promoting the benefits of modern appliances to end users (consumers and commercial) via campaigns and media activity, supporting sales and raising consideration to purchase.
Running the industry ‘Register my Appliance’ website and portal which exists to encourage consumer registrations of all domestic appliances, allowing households to be contacted in the event of a safety recall or service requirement.
Market Data. AMDEA run a confidential market intelligence service, providing monthly consolidated sell-in data by key product category, as well as annual market forecasting.

The December issue of Which? magazine has a follow-up on previous reports about dangerous and counterfeit products sold via online marketplaces. The magazine report states that ‘We saw no action taken to remove any of the products we reported’. Which? has said more than once that it wants the owners of marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Wish to take responsibility for what their traders sell, but this is not happening. I don’t know why the Office or Public Safety and Standard and Trading Standards have not taken any action, as far as I know.

I do not know if Which? could make a super-complaint about these organisations or whether this case is not relevant.

In the magazine, Hannah Walsh reports that Amazon is involved in product liability cases in the US and that in California a new bill was introduced after an individual sued the company.

“In the UK the government must step in to make online marketplaces legally responsible for the safety of the products sold on their sites.” Thank you Which? If this happens it will be a worthwhile achievement.

There is activity, reported earlier, within the the EU to deal with the market place problem and the role of Amazon and others. I have asked Which? a number of times to tell us what this is about, what they have discussed with the UK government and what other countries are doing about it.

There has been no proper response.

It is all very well saying “something must be done”; any of us can say that. But we also need to know what can be done and what is being done which is why we have a consumers’ association, isn’t it?

The bulk of these online product problems simply occur because Amazon, ebay, and others publicise them to a huge audience without consideration of the dangers they pose. Were Amazon et al to have any conscience and sense of responsibility they would deal with this problem themselves by weeding out the bad players, and by, like any responsible retailer, ensuring only authenticated compliant products were promoted. But they don’t. Yet Which? continue to promote Amazon by advertising their “sales” and accepting payments for referrals.

The December magazine article concludes ”We want to see online platforms take the lead in the fight against unsafe products for sale on their sites. Failing that, the very least they can do is make it simple for shoppers to report safety issues or violations, and to ensure that buyers are told if they have unwittingly brought an unsafe product into their home

Well, relying on consumers to know a product is unsafe (until it is too late) is no way to deal with this, and by the time someone might report it there will be hundreds, thousands, who knows, of unsafe products lurking in buyers homes just waiting to become a problem and cause harm.I think a stronger stand is needed.

If someone in the USA – California – can take successful legal action against Amazon and get a bill introduced “to hold virtual retailers to the same standards as brick-and-mortar stores” why cannot Which? take action on behalf of Uk consumers? Maybe we have to wait until we have control over our own laws after Brexit?

As Which? has said the UK the government must step in to make online marketplaces legally responsible for the safety of the products sold on their sites. I hope that Which? will be pushing for legislation because it is clear that the owners of the large marketplaces appear to have failed to self-police the problem.

I am interested to learn more about how individuals can take legal action against companies where products have caused injury or damage.

Perhaps as well as reporting marketplace transgressions Which? should raise a Supercomplaint based on the evidence it holds.

However, as I suggested above, while legislation is unquestionably the answer, making the marketplace host responsible, is the EU in the way and will Brexit make it easier for the UK to go it alone?

Meanwhile, Amazon et al should be severely criticised for not taking action themselves to prevent sales of harmful and unsafe products. Continual adverse publicity in the press might have some effect.

Since suggesting that a super-complaint as a possible approach, above, I am not sure if online marketplaces selling online goods is within the remit of making a super-complaint: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-are-super-complaints/what-are-super-complaints

Perhaps the risk of being electrocuted or poisoned, or having your home burned down could be regarded as consumer detriment. 🙁 To be more serious, marketplace traders selling dangerous and counterfeit goods without the costs of complying with standards etc. are often able to undercut prices of traders that operate legally. Thus there may be a case for a super-complaint based on unfair competition.

But unless Which? experts engage properly with the Conversations their body instigate we may never know. 🙁

From Electrical Safety First:

Online Marketplaces
In the UK, online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Wish are not bound to the same laws as traditional retailers. This means that fake and other dangerous electrical products are being sold to unknowing customers. Containing sub-standard or counterfeit parts, they present a serious risk of fire or electric shock. Sign our petition and demand action against the unlawful sale of dangerous electricals.

Here is a link to the accompanying petition: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/stop-the-sale-of-dangerous-electrical-goods-on-online-marketplaces/

This is exactly correct and why we bring a solution to the market using our Marketplace for Communities to own and run. What people don’t realise here perhaps, is that Electrical Safety First is financed indirectly by the Electricians Qualification, which ESF outsourced a couple of years ago. It’s important to be aware of this because Electricians are not qualified to repair appliances, in particular White Goods. We trained over 4000 people in the old training course, and it was a common theme they had no idea of how they and the internal electrical subsystems, as well as the mechanical elements operated. So with EEESafe, our Qualification will fund our charitable arm, but there needs to be consumer awareness that Electricians by default, are not qualified or certified by an independent standard, such as the one developed at EEESafe.

Thanks Robert. I’m well aware that ESF is funded by industry, and I first learned about this from a contribution to this website. At one time I found their emails about recalls useful but their system is no longer reliable and they are now missing out recalled products that should be on their database. Nevertheless, every source of information about recalls.

Having looked at your website I’m encouraged to see the information that contact details will not be used for marketing.

Robert Alexander says:
18 November 2020

I meet with OPSS regularly as I’m a member of the Business Reference Panel at BEIS. I have a company who has a Safety Standard for White Goods Repair/Refurbishment. We have trained over 4000 people over 40+ years, but this course we have now has been tailored to a new Safety Standard we have developed. It links into a local community online marketplace. However, we’ve not fully launched that part. I just wanted to voice our support for you. I’ve no intention of breaching your guidelines and apologise if I did, but I’m also a citizen of the uk as well. I’ve been lobbying much longer than Which, as it’s been almost 8 years now. However, we all want the same thing. OPSS via EU Directives now have the commitment from a few large online marketplaces, but this is just a tick box and remains unmonitored, unless you actually find a recall product being sold. Our marketplace will stop the sale of the product, if it’s advertised or donated in the community.

Hi Robert and welcome to Which? Conversation.

One of my concerns about dangerous and counterfeit products sold via marketplaces is about what happens to items that have already been sold before a problem is discovered. It’s possible that purchasers are contacted by the trader or the marketplace but I don’t know if this happens.

I very much doubt the traders who supply fraudulent, counterfeit and dangerous products are the type to contact anybody. 🙁

This is the big problem. When someone reveals that a dangerous product has been “discovered” and the host had “removed it” as if that is a success, we need to remember how many have already got into consumers hands and, like time bombs, are waiting to reveal their dangers; but, equally worrying, how many other dangerous products have simply not been uncovered. It is an unregulated mess fuelled by irresponsible organisations.

Well this is about Registering Appliances and knowing where they are. We created the first Appliance Safety Register, before the Gov supported the one by the Manufacturers. They copied us a year later, I think because they want control. Our Register will allow Registered Appliances to be dropped into our Marketplace. That then alerts the right people interested in them, to access them for repair, reselling, gifting and will include about 8 local stakeholders and will prevent known recalls being sold to consumers. I asked the CEO of AMDEA what they do with the products. He said they go back to be recycled or repaired and put back on the market as a used appliance. I said, why not allow that to happen locally, even with recalled products, and with Repairers who operate to the EEESafe Standard. We have trained over 4000 people over 40 years, but now we have a new product and want to set up our Training in multiple sites across the UK, where our Training and Qualification will embed EEESafe Repairers living in the community. They can then handle the recalls and all other products, working to our safer standard. So that would give manufacturers and consumers a brand to trust. Hope that answers your question.

Robert, I am totally in favour of recalled products being repaired where appropriate but would expect them generally to be returned to the original owners rather than resold, or recycled within the group affected (I’m thinking of Indesit and Whirlpool as examples).

I am also in favour of a wider network of trained, independent repairers where products that simply need economic repairs can be kept in service. I also want to see those prepared to undertake their own repairs given the necessary maintenance and repair instructions from the manufacturer and access to spares.

However, “full recalls”, as far as I can see, will only be effective if (nearly) every owner can be contacted. I see compulsory registration as the solution to that; voluntary registration only captures a relatively small proportion of owners.

How would you see full recalls being made possible?

I agree entirely with this. However we’ve trained over 4000 people in 40+ years. There isn’t anything we didn’t understand technically with recalled White Goods especially. The sustainability of returning goods and putting them back out, isn’t commensurate with protecting the planet. It’s more sustainable having them repaired where they are and it gives work to people where they live and I mean right in the neighbourhoods. A Full Recall means every model coming back, but that is nigh on impossible, however with the EEESafe and LocalitEEE model, incentives exist to engage consumers. In the individual recalled product, it only means a certain part of the model is faulty. We can have this repaired where we live, enabling the products to be cost effective, economical in repair, safely by a recognised standard for refurbish and repair, which we have and not driving people into renting something that puts them into debt. Not to mention the carbon and waste prevention savings. Having our own register that will produce those metrics and contribute to raising funds for local people, is another huge plus. Manufacturers will not give out technical information unless it’s to a professional and they say that is “Qualifications”, which EEESafe has. If they are truly going to be sustainable brands, the work with that model. The PR from brands will be a huge benefit to them.

Robert, ”Full Recall means every model coming back, but that is nigh on impossible”. The key, surely, is to be able to contact every (well, the vast majority of) affected customer(s) so repairs or replacements can be effected, either centrally or in their homes. Surely compulsory registration of contact details at the time and point of purchase would achieve (in time, of course) but incentives to register existing appliances could help). Many existing appliances will have been bought using cards, for example, where contact details exist, and certainly so online. Could this data be used or does GDPR get in the way.

” Manufacturers will not give out technical information unless it’s to a professional ” which would be resolved by legislation or regulation. This is why I believe it needs to be an EU initiative to have sufficient clout to persuade manufacturers to comply. The problem with not doing this is that many repairs may be seen as uneconomic due to a call out charge and subsequent labour costs. That would reduce the effectiveness of any green agenda.

Robert – I have been following this thread but I can’t see where your scheme fits into the concerns about defective products and the repair of those that need to be repaired for safety reasons.

You mentioned that you have attended OPSS meetings. There is some frustration among correspondents here that this body has not achieved much in either improving product safety nor organising a reliable framework for contacting the owners of appliances that need attention to make them safe. I wouldn’t expect you to breach confidences, but do you have any views on these points you can share here?

Any repairs carried out under such terms would have to be certified by the relevant manufacturer and use OEM parts to ensure safety standards were met. It would be interesting to learn how your scheme can participate in this urgent requirement. Elective attention to appliances is a different matter and I would welcome anything that encourages owners to repair rather than replace, and also to build a stock of, and provide outlets for, competently repaired and refurbished machines rather than leaving people generally to buy new replacements.

I’m unsure if I can put links on here as I don’t wish to breach guidelines. “The Scheme” as you call it isn’t a scheme. It’s a Community Platform where our own Appliance Safety Register, will link to the Community Online Marketplace. Our Register existed before the AMDEA one. The Government knows this and I have emails from BEIS on this. Although our sites exist on their own, they are co-joined on the Server which we run. Not all of them are fully functional, but the purpose of engaging to raise awareness that we support what Which is saying and that we’ve been in meetings and consultations with BEIS, OPSS and BSi. Our Training as mentioned earlier, has been running for 40+ years with over 4000 trainees (who are not EEESafe Registered, as that came later). and we have our own Training Materials to allow others to teach and train using them, under licence. So the methodology is items registered have free alerts to manufacturers guidelines and products registered can be dropped into the Marketplace and prevented from being sold online. Keeping them local, Registered EEESafe Technicians can conduct repairs, giving them local business and parts can be harvested locally to prevent more waste and ensure items repaired have been repaired by professional. Parts can be harvested from recalls as well, but only to professionals who operate our standard. We can hold the history of repaired items and who repaired it so that a consumer is better informed and that if it’s a self-repair it’s either declared, or unknown. We promote more local repair, we capture waste and carbon prevention from the marketplace and create pots of donated money from every local transaction. I hope that gives you an over view. I have plenty of assertions I’ve made to OPSS, including pointing out that PAT Test Guidance misleads consumers into thinking an item is safe to use, when in fact it’s only safe to switch on. There is no measure of competence in Appliance Repairs and OPSS now agree with us. They want me to feed into yet another consultation. I share the frustrations. What’s brought you into this please? Are you just a consumer or are you or others from other organisations. I’ve been transparent. It would be good to hear about that. Thanks.

Robert – I am very interested by your comments about ensuring that repaired products are safe and that this is not always achieved by professionals. Could you please give us a couple of examples of this? I have long had concerns about certain aspects of PAT testing.

There is HSE information on PAT here. https://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/faq-portable-appliance-testing.htm It is a bit ad hoc but as a precautionary measure it is sensible. However it does, to me, assume the appliance is in principle a safe design and is looking for obvious damage that could compromise safety as well as an electrical check.

But unless you thoroughly examine a product and are knowledgeable you cannot see what might be developing faults. When repairing products, that usually involves dismantling, and the repairer is knowledgeable about the type of product and its components, they are much better placed to identify areas of concern, or give it a clean bill of health, on top of the normal electrical safety checks.

Yes you are right and PAT Testing is good practice, but consumers are led to believe from current Gov and Citizens Advice that it means the PAT Tested item is safe to use, when in fact isn’t. It seems that you can put links here, so here just one explanation related to White goods. http://www.eeesafe.com/pat1 Yes a Repairer should be knowledgeable about it’s products and it’s wrong to say an Electrician has this competency from his NICIEC Qualification. Again, something not argued by Electricians and we’ve evidenced as a common theme in training. May I also ask again for some information on who you are and your interest in this topic. It seems to have been ignored? 🙂

Well as it appears we can supply links, here is an article explaining at least in White Goods, as least one illustration why PAT Testing won’t discover a fault. http://www.eeesafe.com/pat1

You are correct in saying that product knowledge is required to do this safely. An Electrician does not have this evidenced skillset in their Electrical Qualification. A proven Skilled person carrying a standard to reassure consumers, is essential if we’re going to trust reused, refurbished and repaired products. The use of Recycled Components will also cut waste and repair costs, so this is something EEESafe can help with.

There seems to be a missed question here, which is what your interests are in engaging with this topic and what’s your background? Malcom R and Wavechange? Any info please?

Thanks for the link, Robert. I have skimmed through the examples but I can appreciate the limitations of basic PAT testing and also the importance of understanding the design of the equipment when looking for faults. I may come back with some questions but the cases are explained clearly. In addition to the points made, internal inspection can reveal many potential problems such as chafing insulation and overheating of connections. I can see that the testing suggested could reveal developing problems that could result in premature failure even if they don’t put the user in danger.

I am retired but for years I was responsible for a suite of university microbiological research laboratories including a variety of fermentation equipment, both commercial and built in-house. This used high pressure water and more conductive fluids as well as mains power – in close proximity. My hobby horse is earth bonding and I insisted that ALL metal that could be touched by the user was adequately earthed. I’ve seen too many examples where PAT testing has not confirmed this.

Outside work I have had an interest in electronic and electrical equipment since my student days. I’m a strong supporter of ‘right to repair’ so that spares and technical information are available to both independent repairers and individuals like myself. I have no relevant qualifications.

Links are approved by a moderator, which can take time at weekends.

Robert – I am just an ordinary domestic consumer with no special interest in this other than a general concern for appliance safety, the elimination of waste, and sustainability.

I have been participating in Which? Conversation for several years but have never heard of your organisation before. There have been numerous discussions about domestic appliances, the need for registration to enable effective recalls or remedial work, and the competence of different types of technicians.

Thanks for your responses to points made by others, but I remain a bit mystified about what your organisation actually does, how it does it and how consumers can approach it, and what effect it is having on the tendency to replace rather than repair appliances. I deduce that you do not engage in product recalls. Would it be possible for you to give us the name and website link for your organisation so that we can explore further?

You have frequently mentioned that your organisation has delivered training to 4,000+ people over 40 years. I should be interested to learn what the training consists of and what standing it has.

Please note that I am not interested in being critical; I should like to know more because I think your activity should receive wider recognition and be supported by this community. Subject to further consideration, Which? might like to invite you to write and host a Conversation topic on this site.

John – Have a look at the EEESafe website: https://eeesafe.com Robert is aware that promotion is not allowed on Convo, but there are valid concerns. I asked about PAT testing because that is something many of us have at least heard of.

One of the issues that is easy to relate to is the testing of secondhand appliances. A buyer deserves to know that they are safe and stand a chance of being reliable. Some may have been stored in a damp garage/shed or the wiring could have been chewed by mice before being disposed of.

Thank you both for sharing your interest. Yes you’ve found the site. I was a bit concerned Which would have blocked it. Our Tech Director was the author of The Haynes Manuals for Appliance Repairs and also run the courses, where we get the numbers. It’s Graham Dixon and we have rebranded the course to EEESafe and have Training Materials developed over the years. The Course was and could still be, a 2 week course, but we felt if others could deliver the course, and be trained to do so, then this would encourage more people to take it up. Within that, we’ve now developed a Qualification that would help create Community Based Technicians, operating to the standards taught on the new course. We have one module to complete for the Qualification and that will be the final unit of 6, which are mapped to National Occupational Standards. So that’s one part of the holistic model. We have the Trainers Manual, Trainees Manual, Assessors Manual and a Portfolio of Evidence which would be assessed to meet the Qual and we’d then issue it as the Awarding Body. EEESafe Training Centres would deliver and recruit local people to teach and base them extremely local. They can make revenues from this under licence to us. The costs of repair prohibit repair and reuse so funnelling it very local and valourising spares to people who know what they are doing, will reduce this and provide local work for EEESafe Technicians. Doest that help somewhat? It’s part of a bigger model, but we’re looking to find a pilot organisation, although we have one who wants to trial it in a Rehabilitation Unit. For that, we will create EEESafe Refurbishers, who are only workshop based, and will not visit homes. By using our Appliance Safety Register, old appliances when being replaced directly from the Register, they can be used for teaching and provide low cost units to consumers, which will carry a Digital Label we’re creating. That label will follow the Appliance and show it’s repair history, through which consumers will be more informed if a professional has conducted the repair. it will also carry the carbon and waste prevention metrics, and promote the Technicians, Reusers and Centres who sell on a Community Marketplace we have structured. We don’t get the recalls sold online then, or through the centres, technicians etc who have to report safety data we monitor. That’s it in a nutshell, but there is a lot more we can do as well, which can be seen on http://www.localiteee.com. Hope that helps you gents!. 🙂

Robert, thanks for your input. I am an engineer and my work was in research, testing, standards, design and development and manufacturing. I have a consumer’s interest in appliances, ensuring only safe ones are marketed, looking for durability and sensible lives, economic repairability and suchlike.

One frustration is seeing a “total product recall” being proclaimed by government, and Which?, when there is no method of achieving it if we do not know who owns the defective products. Publicising the recall certainly brings it to many people’s attention, but many will not see it or take notice so we end up with the Whirlpool situation where many potentially dangerous machine are still out there, being used. It is much better than nothing, but not a robust solution.

To set the right framework for the future I believe we must have compulsory registration of appropriate products at the time and place of purchase so affected consumers can be contacted directly. I believe the only way to get the vast majority of the products dealt with. As we do with road vehicles for example.

What I hope we will avoid is the fragmented situation we currently have, where responsible people, if they bother, register directly with a manufacturer or through AMDEA for example. One independent body for registration and effecting and listing product recalls is needed.

Thanks Malcolm for that background. You’ll see other answers I’ve already replied to, but I was at the International Product Safety Conference just over a week ago. I’ve pulled out a relevant conversation video if you want to see it. https://www.vibby.com/v/71d_xK_45 This is Amdea and OPSS talking about the concerns on this as it also is engaging the Restart Project who have affiliation with Repair Cafes. The question of Product Liability and Accountability comes up. I’ve spoken with Graham from OPSS a number of times and he thinks we have a part to play, but now it’s become quite important to deal with. Manufacturers have to protect their IP and liability, but liability under the Consumer Protection Act also makes a seller partly responsible. It’s a good 27 mins watch but is the most relevant part to our discussion here. We want to give the Community it’s own Marketplace because it will also raise funds for the communities engaging, but it will mean a Safer Community as well, because it ties into our Appliance Safety Register. I don’t believe they want it, for obvious reasons but we can embed our Digital Label at the point of sale as well as in repair and refurbishment. If it’s clearly illustrated at the point of Sale and customers understand quickly how it benefits their community and fund raises, then I believe we can bring the majority of consumers onboard to independent appliance registrations.

Robert – I fully support your efforts regarding the need for proper PAT testing of appliances for the reasons explained in your document. It concerns me that those conducting tests often avoid insulation tests because of the risk of frying electronic components.

One of my longstanding concerns is the inability of white goods to contain fire. In particular I have mentioned in Conversations is the use of plastic parts in the casings of white goods. The plastics can melt or burn in a fire, resulting in the spread of fire. The final page of your article on PAT testing shows a dryer where the fascia has been destroyed.

We cannot prevent fires starting in white goods but with all-metal cases, the fire would be contained because of the limited oxygen supply. It would require metal doors on washing machines but that would eliminate the problem of explosive breakage of glass doors – something we have discussed at length in another Convo. Flammable plastic backs on fridges and freezers are being phased out but no-one seems concerned about the use of plastic casing parts elsewhere in white goods. Some years ago the BS for consumer units was changed, so that new and replacement products must be fire-resistant. All the ones I have seen on sale are metal. I wonder if you have any experience or views on this.

The requirements controlling the use of materials in, for example, large domestic appliances have been explained elsewhere. They are dealt with in international safety standards produced by a diverse group of experts. There are working groups estsblished looking at fire in appliances. So it would be useful to seek expert input ftom those dealing with this. As Which? are a contributing member to relevant standards through BSI, I believe, they could perhaps properly inform us on these issues.

As an aside, referring to “flammable” plastics is misleading. As the standards state, the materials used are required to meet particular requirements when subjected to heat and flame. Plastics have a very wide range if properties, including flammability. The right materials need to be chosen for the application. Your car, airplanes, for example, contain a very high proportion of “plastics”.

Here’s another example of how plastic and glass can fail in a fire. Had the case and the door been made of steel the fire would have been contained. In this and all the other examples I have posted, plastics have either burned or melted. I would hope that by posting numerous images showing this problem on Convo we could have some input from Which?

https://www.newburytoday.co.uk/news/news/29537/public-safety-warning-after-newbury-washing-machine-fire.html

These are fairly rare events, given the number of appliances out their, and we often do not find out the cause, whether neglect, misuse or abuse for example. This example is 8 months old. I’ve often thought we could avoid many serious road accidents if we abolished 2-way roads, and helped prevent pedestrians being injured if there were railings alongside all town streets. But…….

Risk can never be totally removed but we should explore sensible ways of reducing it. We could move further forward in this sort of discussion if we asked the international standards organisation for the reasoning behind the use of low-flammability materials, the construction of appliances, for example, so we can see what supports the decisions of all the experts, from manufacturers to safety, consumer, fire, and other fields who write and revise the standards. I have many times asked for this to inform our discussions but Which? have never taken it up.

Having done my share of risk assessment, my understanding is that if simple and practical measures can be taken to reduce the risk then these should be adopted as soon as practical.

You criticised me for mentioning flammable plastics, but isn’t that what the photo above shows.

There are various ways that a fire could start in a washing machine and misuse could make matters worse, but providing that all the casing is made of steel or other materials that don’t melt or burn the fire will be contained.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to have a washing machine had a metal case including the fascia. It is perfectly feasible.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho – I would be grateful if you could pass my concerns on to a member of the relevant team.

The damage to this appliance seems to show extensive heat where no plastics are used. I think we need to know the cause of individual fires before we can look at the best remedies. This often appears not to happen. Unfortunate, because we could learn a lot.

Plastics are rated for flammability by applying heat and flame testing whose temperatures, for example, depend upon the expected exposure under fault conditions they are expected to meet in practice. The safety standards specify the appropriate tests and limits. If these are found to be inappropriate then the standards would be changed, as is normal practise. I am suggesting this is the route that should be pursued – the properly researched and considered way to address a problem. I presume the working groups under the IEC that I understand are investigating this area will do just that. I also expect that they will also be considering the work of UL who are represented on these standards investigations.

DerekP says:
21 November 2020

Given that hobs and ovens have all metal cases – including for their controls – I agree with wavechange that it would be reasonably practicable to eliminate plastic fascias (etc.) from washing machines and dryers. (Indeed I’m sure the old dryer that my mother used to own did have a full metal case.)

For a UK legal perspective, that begs the questions of how much risk could be averted if “unstuitable plastic components” were outlawed by the upgrading of the relevant international standards or by low UK laws.

A second key question would then be whether or not the time, trouble and costs of averting those risks would be too high (i.e. grossly disporportionate) in relation to the risks themselves.

Thanks Derek. I don’t see a need to avoid the use of plastics inside an appliance. Provided the outer case is metal or other fire-resistant material a fire will be contained within the appliance and will self-extinguish as soon as the oxygen is depleted. Some redesign would be needed to eliminate ventilation louvres, but there are other ways of providing cooling. This approach would not work with vented tumble dryers which rely on a flow of air. I don’t see why replacing plastic case parts with metal need significantly increase the cost of appliances.

Malcolm – My interpretation of the photo is that the case has acted as a chimney. Once the plastic fascia has burned away, fresh air will have been drawn in from the open base of the appliance, the oxygen feeling the fire. The steel case has been burned but there is no evidence that the fire has affected its ability to contain a fire. I do not know what sort of plastic has been used for the fascia but it very obviously unsuitable for the purpose. Having tested samples of the plastics used in the cases of my appliances, they all burn readily, which gives me little confidence that they would survive a fire.

We have discussed the necessity to test materials correctly to establish their properties. International standards are very specific about how this is done to ensure the results are meaningful and specific.

As interested parties I want to see input from experts so we can understand the issues fully. Those reputable companies charged with the production of appliances, the groups preparing and maintaining standards, are not incompetent people with no interest in protecting consumers. I hope we will get input through Which? We keep going round the same houses on this issue without making any progress.

You have made these points before. How do you explain how the plastic fascia of the washing machine has been destroyed by fire in the above example? When fire breaches the case of an appliance it can cause severe damage to homes.

I am certainly not opposed to standard testing but it’s also important to study how fire can affect products in the domestic environment. The London Fire Brigade reported on the risks of using flammable plastic backing on fridges and freezers and these are being phased out. It is disappointing that the use of flammable plastics in the casings of other appliances has not been officially recognised.

We’ve discussed what I regard as the misuse of the term “flammable plastics “ in this context. What I would like to see is input from those with expert knowledge of this issue and the standards that support it.

I will carry on using a term that describes what I have seen. How do you explain how the plastic fascia of the washing machine has been destroyed by fire in the above example?

I agree events like that Malcolm are fairly rare, but that’s only true of the events that are notified publicly. The Fire Service for instance are not allowed to report makes and models of appliances that are known to catch fire. What we want to do, is put the knowledge behind the journey of the appliance that is registered. An MOT where at least it’s voluntary to begin with but it would be part of being EEESafe Registered. I’m often asked by OPSS, where is the evidence that a repair could be partly to blame for the cause of a fire. This was my point. If you don’t have a history, how do you know it’s not a cause or contribution to the fire-accident. More importantly doesn’t a consumer if given a choice, have a right to know that a competent or professional person was involved in the product journey? I believe if we offer that service in our Community Marketplace via our Register, consumers would start to engage and we’d get more Registrations long term. There is currently no way of measuring if the person was competent and/or that a self-repair was done on it. Just today I received another enquiry from someone who is grabbing waste appliances, fixing them at home and putting them back on the market. He now wants to go on a training course and procure quals if possible.

From Electrical Safety First:

“In the last year, over 4 million UK shoppers bought a fake electrical product and a quarter of these were purchased from an online marketplace.

Did you know that when you buy from an online marketplace, you are buying from an unregulated third party seller? This lack of regulation means that it is easy for counterfeit and sub-standard products to be sold.” https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/check-it-out/

There is a link to download a browser extension that is compatible with Amazon and eBay. “The Check It Out browser extension will remind you when you are not buying directly from the manufacturer or a retailer you know and trust.” At the moment it is for Chrome and Safari browsers.

Maybe the marketplace owners should use the app to help them decide which products not to host.

The marketplace owners have clearly no interest in preventing fake, unsafe and dangerous products from reaching consumers with their assistance. Otherwise they would have taken action by now. What is inexplicable is that, given the regulation and penalties that apply to all retailers that this loophole has not been closed. Is that down to the EU and can we adopt our own approach after Brexit?

Any one of us can personally import any product for our own use from anywhere in the world and it is unlikely to be intercepted. This is unlikely to change. The difference with Amazon, ebay, and similar hosts is that their marketplaces publicise these products, in many cases assist in their distribution, make money from this trade, but crucially allow large quantities of damaging products into our homes.

I hope it is within Which?’s scope to do more than simply report the problem and ask for those products that might be discovered, too late, to be delisted (usually to reappear it seems).

At least ESF has joined Which? in recognising the need for action. I hope that OPSS is now on the case and Which? will keep us informed. I don’t just want to see more reports from Which? about dangerous products sold on marketplaces, but they deserve credit for what they have done so far.

The UK could go it alone to tackle the problem but I suggest the best approach is to work with the EU or better still be the driving force.

I wonder how many dodgy products sold on online marketplaces have had serious consequences such as fires, poisoning, electric shock or damage to expensive products (e.g. a dodgy charger can wreck an expensive phone). It would help ‘our’ case to have this information.

I wonder if I am alone in not buying goods from abroad.

I have said earlier that as this is a world-wide problem we should be tackling with others, at least with the EU even though we have left. It will be easier to deal with a strong adversary such as Amazon if we act in force. The EU appears to be thinking about action that can be taken and I have asked Which? to tell us about this. However, there is a more appropriate place for marketplace discussion where many related issues are being discussed https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/online-marketplace-regulation/

It is a worldwide problem, so I did not understand your comment about Brexit. I will repost the information about the browser extension in the other Convo.

Re Brexit. The question I posed was that when we were in the EU we may have been constrained from taking unilateral action and setting our own law for marketplaces. Freed from the EU we may be able to do our own thing. However, as I said, I believe we would be better taking concerted action.

I would still like Which? to tell us what is in progress.

It seems that these interesting but familiar digressions are getting us no nearer to achieving an official central system of registering, and tracking the future location of, major domestic appliances that are susceptible to fire or other safety problems. I deeply regret Which?’s apparent determination to abstain from participation in this issue.

As you know I am supportive of an official system for product registration, John. I’ve long advocated an independent system as used for car recalls.

It is not just recalled products that go on fire, which is why want to see white goods designed to contain fire.

I agree. Shattered oven doors and exploding washing machine doors are other examples. Faulty wiring, loose bolts, sub-standard components, and many other things can create hazards. We need to start with the major and most frequently used appliances and then progress to the smaller items like microwaves, toasters, irons, kettles, lawnmowers, power tools, and other electrical equipment. As you say, not just for recalls but for safety notices and alerts, upgrades, servicing reminders, and other notifications. An official register could assist with quicker settlement of insurance claims – even perhaps to the extent of “if it’s not registered it’s not covered”.

Thanks John. There are so many ways that we can improve the safety and reliability of products.

Fridges and freezers must be top priority because they are in continuous use and a fire could start while we are asleep. These used to be very safe products because the compressor is encased in metal but the introduction of features such as automatic defrosting caused problems thanks to enclosing the defrost timer in plastic rather than metal. Then we had plastic-backed appliances that helped a small fire due to a failed motor capacitor to become a more serious fire. These changes should never have been allowed when safer alternatives exist.

Lack of maintenance can increase risk, the most obvious example being failure to clean filters on tumble dryers. By all means criticise users but I think it would be more constructive to design dryers to contain a fire so that it cannot spread.

It would be worth exploring the possibility of voiding insurance cover if products have not been registered. White goods would be a good start.

Three separate but relevant themes run through this Convo.
One concerns the construction of products, and particularly large domestic appliances, and whether the details are appropriate for safety. These are all covered by long-standing international standards, regularly updated, prepared by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) with BSI as the UK’s contributing body. They currently have working parties dealing with fire in domestic appliances. I would be talking to these people on the concerns expressed about, for example, plastic components and sealed appliances to get the considered views of those familiar with the problems. Otherwise we simply keep repeating views but not moving forward. Which?, as a member of the relevant BSI committees could take this up. I will ask relevant organisations to see if I can find out. Others could try the same.

The second theme concerns the way we can recall products where serious faults have been discovered. In all the time this has been discussed we appear to have made no progress. My view is that we need every appropriate product to be registered at the point of sale with the purchaser’s essential contact details so that, in the event of a product problem, all affected owners can be directly contacted and informed. One independent organisation, set up by government probably, should hold this information, also to receive voluntary registrations of existing appliances, publicise recalls and organise the contact with owners so a full recall and action can be effected. It should begin with the major and most potentially dangerous domestic appliances.Do you agree?

The third theme, largely talked around in another Convo, concerns the unregulated sale of products through so-called market places, such as hosted by Amazon and ebay. Fake, unsafe and dangerous products are sold through these by unscrupulous or incompetent traders, usually sourced overseas and outside of our legislation. So consumers are put at risk with no means to prevent it until too late. Unlike UK and EU businesses that import and put products onto the market, Amazon etc are legally not responsible for these products. That must change and the only way seems to be to make the marketplace host legally responsible. Incidentally, a poll on who should be held responsible showed a misunderstanding of the situation. The manufacturer might be thought (morally) responsible which, in principle they are but, as they have no morals, that won’t apply; and as the vast majority are outside of our legislation we have no recourse so they can cheat us as much as they want. The key lies with the person who brings the product into the UK (EU). This could be an individual, for their own personal use, and all we can do is point out the potential dangers of products from unknown sources. But the real problem lies with those who facilitate the distribution of dodgy products in volume by not only advertising them but assisting in their sale, delivery and payments. We need legislation to close this loophole. Do you agree?

I agree that registration should be official, should so far as possible be facilitated at the point of sale [but there needs to be a system for registering relocations and disposals], and should be risk-led so that appliances with the highest incidence of safety problems are dealt with first and then others in descending order of risk. It could take some years to achieve a nominally full register. The cost of registration should be covered at the point of sale by the manufacturer, or the importer, or the retailer as appropriate and a certificate of registration issued in each case to serve as a passport for that unit.

I agree that safety responsibility for goods sold through ‘marketplaces’ should lie with the marketplace host where no other effective responsible party exists but there could be an exemption process where the manufacturer or importer has provided suitable indemnity. Marketplaces would need to recover the financial implications of this through a commission on each sale; this could lead to a significant reduction in the number of sellers and product duplications which would be a benefit in my view.

Ideally, public information and education should draw trade away from unscrupulous sellers in key categories where safety is at stake, and this would include domestic products, electrical apparatus, toys, well-being products and other goods of dubious sources, specifications or formulations. I would imagine marketplaces would welcome a basis of trust rather than disrepute which is becoming the prevailing sentiment.

It is virtually impossible for market surveillance to be effective in controlling hazardous products where there are hundreds of sellers using a huge variety of descriptions of apparently identical or closely similar items. Brand-owners can be left to deal with counterfeiting but safety and regulatory compliance require a more thorough approach and only the marketplace host can really organise or supervise it; if that creates a barrier to market entry then so be it. [As an aside, I don’t understand why counterfeiting appears to be such an obsession of trading standards while safety defaults seem to get much less attention; both rip-off consumers but one has potentially much more serious consequences.]

Counterfeiting is a problem for businesses because of lost revenue and damage to their reputation. It annoys customers who have been cheated. On the other hand, many of the products that are potentially dangerous do work when they are received but may fail prematurely or if a failure does occur it could cause fire or electric shock. A smoke or carbon monoxide alarm may not be sufficiently sensitive and hence a danger. There are some reports of small electricals such as dodgy phone chargers causing fires but if you look at the causes of electrical fires in the home, white goods present a far greater risk.

It concerns me that many people knowingly buy fake Apple and Samsung chargers because they are prepared to take the risk because of the lower cost. Have a look at what your family and friends are using. As Which? has mentioned, some counterfeits are good and can be hard to spot.

It is usually luxury and high-priced goods that are counterfeited since the price difference is tempting. My view is that the brand-owners should deal with it.

Getting back to dangerous goods, if our efforts succeed and products have higher safety standards designed into them, and dangerous products are progressively eliminated, then white goods will drop down the priority order and the smaller devices and gadgets will become the dominant articles requiring intervention.

The problem of repair competence remains a concern as Robert Alexander has mentioned. I would be in favour of a national competency standard and certification.

5Many market place smoke and CO alarms simply never worked – see Which? reports. Electrical products may work but can be electrically unsafe. Harmful chemicals may be present in products. A deliberate avoidance of safety regulations is the hallmark of many marketplace products. It is not a trivial issue. I think that the suggestion that properly produced (in accordance with safety standards) white goods pose a far greater risk is a curious argument. They are two quite different problems, both of which need addressing, but I do not want to see excuses being handed to Amazon when they facilitate the sale of dangerous
products.

Are there any statistics for harm caused by dodgy goods? Fires, electric shocks, house fires not detected by fake smoke alarms, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide with no warning from a fake alarm…..

I agree a training qualification for electrical goods repairers would be good, at least covering electrical safety. I wonder what qualifications garage mechanics must have to be allowed to work on your car?

One of the problems with assessing the risk from “genuine” electrical appliances is that we rarely know the cause, because it is not often investigated. Many are older and well used so may well be subjected to neglect, misuse, abuse, damage.

I’d be interested to know just how catastrophic fires develop in dishwashers and washing machines when during operation they are full of water or wet items. The thought occurs to me that, since they are permanently connected to mains water, a thermally-operated spray could be incorporated that operates if a fire should start in the appliance. If, that is, there seems to be sufficient risk.

When we discuss risk we could remember that fires caused by cooking appliances account for around eight times as many incidents as in all white goods – fridge freezers, tumble dryers, washing machines, dishwashers – combined. Perhaps this area deserves more attention?

I am a little ambivalent about certain counterfeit luxury items – those that can cause no harm to the consumer. Those that are grossly overpriced in terms of what they cost to make that seem to be used as status symbols, expressions of wealth, for a small number of people. I doubt that selling clones at sensible prices to a different market does the main marketer much, if any, harm. It may irritate the wealthy owner of a £5000 handbag to see an “ordinary” person carrying one, should their paths ever cross. Naughty, though. And wrong, particularly for the designer to see their intellectual property pinched.

Malcolm – I feel strongly that dangerous and counterfeit products should not be sold. Let’s give Which? credit for identifying examples of this practice as part of their campaign against dangerous products. Thanks to Which? we have also learned that marketplaces expect their traders to comply with legal requirements and that at present there is no legal requirement for the marketplaces to police the problem. This must change.

Can you provide any statistics that demonstrate that counterfeit electrical goods are a greater fire risk than white goods? The more evidence we have to support our case the better.

No. You suggested that white goods present a far greater risk than the dodgy electrical items that plague us. . I didn’t ask but assumed you had statistics for the latter to support your claim. There are annual statistics published for reported fires down to different causes, including white goods. The risk is present but very low. The problem is the causes are rarely investigated but I presume many may be due to products that are not maintained correctly, damaged, misused, abused, as well as a latent problem in a particular appliance. The numbers can be swollen when we have a particular issue such as the Indesit and Whirlpool ones.

It begs the question of whether we should require all household electrical items be given an annual safety check, even if basic. Or promote the practice to those responsible enough to see the potential benefits. That might well prevent a lot of incidents and also identify at-risk products like unregistered faulty Whirlpool dryers and washing machines. My cars are checked annually for safety, I have my gas boiler serviced every year with safety checks. It would certainly provide employment and could be part of a revived appliance repair industry. Unfortunately it could also be a profitable area for the scammers but that should not be a reason to condemn it.

On a mathematical basis, the risk of fires in white goods could well exceed that in other electrical items due to the sheer numbers installed among a very few brands. The hazard risk could be heightened if they are predominantly used when the users are not present or are asleep. Regular electrical safety checks might be a good idea but they would not have revealed the Indesit et al problem which had mechanical causes for which there was a mechanical fix.

We could be in danger of losing sight of the main objective in our conversations, which was to establish an effective recall process for when something did go wrong. Obviously, prevention is a better solution but that might be unrealistic or unaffordable.

It’s an interesting thought that if all refrigerators had full metal fire containment the Grenfell Tower fire might not have happened and we would have carried on cladding the external walls of existing buildings or designing new ones with unsuitable materials and an inadequate construction technique. It was the combination of a small fire in a fridge/freezer, curtains catching fire, a hot night with an adjacent window open, a draught that drew the fire to the exterior, and a building defect that allowed the fire to enter the cladding void and race up the wall like a chimney, consuming the flammable cladding material as it went. Since fires can be caused by so many other means, smoking, cooking and electrical faults being the most likely, it is good that steps are at last being taken to improve the containment and prevention properties of buildings [but means of escape remains a significant problem]. It is a great shame that it is taking so long to arrive at recommendations for future product safety in terms of fire resistance, containment and prevention, and for building safety in terms of means of escape and extinguishment of fire.

Here is information from Which? that supports my view that white goods are more of a problem than small electrical goods: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/02/revealed-the-brands-linked-to-the-most-appliance-fires/ I have not analysed the official statistics.

White goods should – in my view – be able to contain a fire even if misused. It is well established that if filters in tumble dryers are not cleaned regularly, this increases the fire risk. Manufacturers often warn about this in their instructions. Photos showing accumulation of lint unseen in the case of dryers can be found online. Few have their dryers serviced unless this is is done as part of a repair. I look forward to condenser and vented dryers being phased out in favour of heat pump dryers that doe not have a high temperature heater.

We do not know how these fires are caused, whether it is from a latent problem in the product or misuse, damage, abuse, lack of maintenance. I am concerned to see that we should do all we can to mitigate the risk of harm from all products, and want to see a discussion with the experts involved to add to our understanding. This is very different from preventing products entering the market that are knowingly not made to the appropriate standards.

John wrote: “We could be in danger of losing sight of the main objective in our conversations, which was to establish an effective recall process for when something did go wrong. Obviously, prevention is a better solution but that might be unrealistic or unaffordable.” This Conversation is about product safety and the recall process is not even mentioned in the introduction, even though it is clearly relevant.

Much has been said about the advantage of phasing out plastic backs on fridges and freezers. What I want to see is for the same to happen with other parts of their cases to help ensure that all white goods can contain a fire. I don’t understand why manufacturers were allowed to use these plastics in the first place.

Perhaps we should create new discussion threads focused on particular aspects of how we can end dangerous products. I have provided one below to discuss the problem of consumers not responding to a recall.

Malcolm wrote: “We do not know how these fires are caused, whether it is from a latent problem in the product or misuse, damage, abuse, lack of maintenance.”

If white goods are designed to contain fire then it would not matter whether there has been an electrical fault or the user is at fault.

I have suggested you ask the relevant organisations about this, a proposal that the Underwriters Laboratory in the USA looked at in 2011. Not, I believe, universally adopted in the US. UL are members of the relevant standards authority and are contributing, I believe, to the working parties on fire in domestic appliances. So I am sure the merits of their proposal are being put forward and are being heard.

As Which? so far have not told us anything about this I think it is up to us to do our best to find out. I have made a start. Perhaps you could too?

I have done, Malcolm, and I also continue to hope that Which? will take this up.

What was the outcome?

I have not obtained much useful feedback so far. I did obtain some statistics on fires but these have now been published. Lauren Deitz did pass on information to Which? and I have done this myself, but no reply has been forthcoming.

FAILURE TO ACT WHEN AWARE OF A RECALL

“A large number of people have knowingly ignored a recall notice.
While just over a fifth (21%) of people surveyed said they had responded to
a product recall, 5% said they have knowingly ignored a recall notice with 47% of people responding that they have never even seen a recall notice. The reasons associated with ignoring recall fall under three categories – price, risk and effort. These are explored more
fully in this report.” https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/media/1788/consumer-voices-on-product-recall.pdf It is worth reading this report but bear in mind that it was published in 2014 before the OPSS was set up.

I have ignored a safety recall on a Martindale socket tester. The problem was that some examples were not glued properly and the top could detach, leaving live connections exposed. The ones that I bought for my own use and as a Christmas gift for a family member were fine. Maybe I should have let the company know. Maybe they should have informed me of the recall since I made two purchases from the company.

If a product is working fine they may see no need to act on a recall.

I have read that not everyone responds to recalls for cars.

Hence the need for compulsory registration of contact details so all affected can be contacted. Maybe it should be pointed out that if a defective product is not remedied and harm results, criminal action could be taken by 3rd parties who may be affected as well as maybe a refusal of an insurance claim. This may be the case with car recalls.,

As you know I support compulsory registration, Malcolm. In the case of car recalls, action could be taken against the owner or keeper. Insurers could ask their customers if there are any outstanding recalls, which can easily be checked online. I know of cases where owners have been kept waiting months for recalled cars to be fixed.