We want people to be better protected from flammable plastic-backed fridge-freezers. Do you back our call for retailers to take fire-risk appliances off the shelves?
We’re celebrating a big win for our End Dangerous Products campaign.
Today, a new fridge freezer safety standard enters into force effectively banning the manufacture of flammable plastic-backed models.
We’ve been campaigning for the introduction of a new standard since 2017, along with groups including London Fire Brigade and Electrical Safety First, and our 115,000 campaign supporters.
The standard sees the introduction of new tests that require cold appliance backing material to withstand a naked flame for 30 seconds, and demonstrate that it can sufficiently prevent flames reaching the flammable insulation as a result.
Although fires due to refrigeration faults are rare, under the old standard, some appliances were made with a flammable plastic backing that can accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire.
While the new standard effectively bans manufacturers from making flammable plastic-backed models, retailers are expected to be allowed to continue selling their old stock so we’ll be calling for them to remove any remaining flammable plastic-backed fridge freezers from sale immediately.
If you’re thinking of buying a new fridge, freezer or fridge-freezer, remember to check before you buy to make sure you’re not getting a model with flammable plastic backing.
You can use our free tool to check the backing material of hundreds of the most popular fridges, freezers and fridge freezers currently on the market and reviewed by Which?.
The London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Charlie Pugsley, told us:
We have long been warning about the stark dangers of plastic backed fridges and freezers as part of our Total Recalls campaign and we support Which? in raising concerns about this issue and producing the online checking tool.
The new standard sends a clear message that these flammable backed fridges and freezers are a risk and is a big step in the right direction, but it’s really important that this isn’t the end of it and that more work is done to make white goods safer.
We’d also like to see recall notices better publicised and greater regulation of second-hand appliances”
We’ve repeatedly asked manufacturers and retailers to stop making plastic-backed fridge-freezers that can accelerate fires and put people’s lives at risk.
A new safety standard will be coming into force this July, requiring all manufacturers to stop making these potentially unsafe refrigeration models.
Retailers must now put the safety of their customers first. Hundreds of these potentially unsafe fridge-freezers continue to be sold across the UK. They must be removed from shelves immediately, so that people are not left at risk for years to come.
People must have confidence that the appliances they buy are safe. Until then, anyone planning on buying a fridge-freezer should still check they are not unwittingly purchasing an unsafe model.
Original convo 11/02/2019
First of all, it’s important to say that the sale of flammable plastic-backed models that pass the current safety standard is legal and that the backing itself is not the cause of fire.
However, our call comes in response to a growing body of evidence, including from the London Fire Brigade, Electrical Safety First and our own testing indicating that plastic-backing can rapidly accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire in your home.
This is why we’re calling on retailers to immediately stop the sale of plastic-backed fridge freezers, fridges, and freezers.
— Which? (@WhichUK) February 11, 2019
Check your appliance with our tool
It is worth stressing that if you already own a flammable plastic-backed model, the risk of fridge-freezer fires is extremely low.
However, if you’re thinking of buying a new appliance, we’d urge you to make sure you’re getting a metal-backed (or other flame retardant) model. If you’re unsure about how to check, the free-to-use Which? fridge-freezer checker tool can help.
In September 2017, we urged manufacturers to stop using flammable plastic-backing in their fridge-freezers, while in April of last year, we took the unprecedented step of making 250 fridge-freezers Don’t Buys.
In response to this, a number of brands committed to stopping the production of these appliances by January 2019.
Last month, when we followed up with manufacturers, we were encouraged to find that almost all have now stopped producing flammable plastic-backed models while most confirmed to us that they no longer distribute these appliances to retailers either, marking a win for our campaign.
Your turn, retailers
Off the back of this, we looked into whether the UK’s four biggest fridge-freezer retailers (AO.com, John Lewis & Partners, Argos and Currys PC World) are still selling plastic-backed models.
Of the four, only John Lewis told us that they do not currently sell any plastic-backed models, and haven’t done so since April 2018. We’re now calling on AO.com, Argos and Currys to follow suit and remove all flammable plastic-backed models from sale immediately.
A fridge-freezer lottery
When carrying out our research, we found there was huge confusion about whether models were metal or plastic-backed, with a significant proportion mislabelled, making it difficult for people to have confidence they are not purchasing a fire-risk fridge-freezer.
I’d be interested to know if you’ve found similar when buying a new appliance?
That’s why we’re also calling on manufacturers and retailers to provide people with greater clarity by clearly listing model backing type so customers know what they’re buying.
This uncertainty demonstrates the need for reform of the standards system – people should be able to expect more transparency and consistency across the industry.
If you’ve recently bought, or are thinking of buying, a new fridge-freezer, I’d be really keen to hear about your experience. Were you able to find out the backing type of your model? Did you have difficulty locating this information? Let us know in the comments.