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.