/ Home & Energy

Will the government take action on Whirlpool?

London Fire Brigade

Last month we launched our campaign to challenge Whirlpool over its fire-risk dryers. And the response we’ve had has been overwhelming – over 75,000 people have already pledged their support. So what now?

We’ve been talking about this safety issue for months now, monitoring its progress and listening to your experiences. Here on Which? Conversation many of you have shared your concerns – some of you being affected owners and others discussing the wider safety issues.

And it’s clear that nearly all of you share our concerns and that this has dragged on for far too long.

Getting action from government

Whirlpool has been aware of the problem for at least 15 months now. Yet many customers with affected Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline, Swan and Creda branded tumble dryers are still waiting for their machine to be repaired.

We think it’s time to push this up the government’s agenda. The government isn’t doing enough to tackle the problems with the product safety system, with Whirlpool’s handling of its fire-risk dryers being just one example of this.

We need the government to take this issue more seriously, and to do that we want MPs to be given the opportunity to press the government in Parliament.

To make this happen we’re backing Andy Slaughter MP’s petition calling on the government to take action on Whirlpool – but we need your help.

If we can get this petition to 100,000 signatures before May 2017, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament. But we need you, your friends, your family and your colleagues to help get this debate secured and push this safety issue higher up the government’s agenda.

Time is running out

The fact is that fire-risk dryers are still in people’s homes, and the modification programme isn’t delivering solutions fast enough.

Last month, we spoke to Sharna, whose mum owned an affected Indesit dryer. For Sharna and her family the opportunity for a repair came too late. In October 2016, a London Fire Brigade investigation found that a fire at a Shepherds Bush tower block, where Sharna lived, was caused by a faulty Indesit dryer.

That dryer was awaiting inspection as part of Whirlpool’s modification programme. Their home and their belongings were destroyed and they are still unable to return home today.

It’s high-time the government steps up for safety’s sake – please join our call for a debate in Parliament and back Andy Slaughter MP’s petition today.

Is it fair that people are still waiting for their fire-risk tumble dryer to be sorted? Do you expect the government to take action on this safety issue?

Do you want the government to take action on Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers?

Yes (99%, 2,664 Votes)

No (1%, 15 Votes)

Not sure - tell us why (0%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,690

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Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I very much support Which? in pushing for action over the tumble dryers that have been identified by Whirlpool as being a fire risk and requiring modification.

The next priority is to look at the fire risk associated with ALL tumble dryers and other appliances. According to Which?, washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers present the greatest danger: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/06/which-reveals-the-home-appliances-most-likely-to-catch-fire-406053/

I am not surprised that electrical appliances are a fire risk because it has become common to use plastics that burn or melt as part of the casing. I have tested samples from the casing of my Bosch dishwasher, Hotpoint fridge and freezer and Miele washing machine and all have plastic that burns rapidly producing considerable smoke. It is not difficult to find photos of appliances where plastics have burned or melted, allowing fire to spread. I have posted several examples in other Conversations and here is another:

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Credit: The Lincolnite

It is very difficult to avoid the small risk of fire in household appliances, but use of an all-metal casing (or other fire-resistant material) would prevent fires from spreading. British and International standards are intended to ensure that products are safe but it is clear that the standards are INADEQUATE because there is currently no requirement to contain fire and prevent it from setting light to kitchens or utility rooms.

I am extremely disappointed that there is no requirement for British Standards to be made readily available to the public. It is very expensive to obtain a copy of documents that specify requirements that relate to public safety.

Standards are extremely valuable but they need to be adequate and the documents publicly available.

Member
Anne Whitburn says:
23 February 2017

I hire a washer/dryer which had to be replaced as it was worn out! it was replaced by a Hotpoint washer/dryer. Great I thought, the dryer overheated and the washing was wetter at the end of the cycle. I received another washer/dryer and the same thing happened. I now am just using the washer and am due to receive another washer/dryer on the lst March, 2017. Because Indesit is the parent company of both Whirlpool and Hotpoint, my feeling is that because they probably use similar components in all the washing machines, maybe in an attempt to cool down the dryer and let in more cold water than the design was meant to but unfortunately it transpired that there wasn’t a sufficient facility to pump the water out again. I did learn from Hotpoint that there was a faulty valve on this model WDL 520 7g. If they knew then why are they still hiring them out. I hire mine from Box Clever which is a responsible company. Several customers complained but clearly someone knew!! It shouldn’t need further legislation as we have the Sales of Goods Act which should and could be used!

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

As you all know I support Wavechange unilaterally-unconditionally- without a shadow of a doubt -against all opposition in my backing of his criticism of the use of plastic in dryers as they go on fire due to curable designs not being manufactured to stop Permanently ANY chance of a fire starting in a dryer. To say -live with it- its the “customers fault ” is pure Bull. Is the engineering world saying they cant design dryers that wont go on fire ? That seems to be the attitude in the drive for profit-profit-profit -at the expense of human life , IMHO there is NO excuse in this world that puts cash into a manufacturer,s pocket while putting potention death into a home. My first encounter with fire was with a neighbours child when we built a fire in bombed out waste ground to get a heat in winter , a policeman came and reprimanded us and told us -quote-want to build a fire ? — then put the fire in a large STEEL barrel so that it wont spread , that was in the early 50,s , that principle has stood the test of time , everything I worked on in heavy engineering was made out of metal -stainless steel-mild steel- cast iron -cast steel -you name it , lasted decades , no fires , and I worked in foundries repairing equipment where plastic was non-existent due to extreme heat/fire , so Wavechange has my unconditional vote.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thank you Duncan. It is easy to check if flammable plastic has been used in the construction of an appliance. Just cut a small sliver, hold it with pliers and set light to it. Do this outside and please be careful. It may be easiest to take a piece of plastic from the plastic surrounding the lop of an appliance.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

There are specific tests given in International Standards to test for flammability of non-metallic materials.

Incidentally, the picture above shows distorted plastic. If it were flammable it would have totally burned away. That does not appear to have happened from the evidence?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The plastic fascia and plastic around the lid have been damaged by fire, allowing the fire to spread to surrounding flammable materials such as kitchen units. This model also has louvres in the back panel. The dryer may have an open base, as many do, allowing oxygen to enter and fuel the fire. There are plenty of examples online showing appliances where the plastic parts of the case have burned or melted, leaving the steel case intact. I have no problem with tests carried out under standard conditions but it is also necessary for those responsible for our safety to use a bit of common sense and see what is obvious.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Sorry – I thought you were talking about burning plastic. It has deformed. Tests on plastics often relate to the way they behave when exposed to a heat source, and their ability to not sustain burning.

Kenneth Watt has contributed as someone intimately involved professionally with domestic appliances in previous conversations. His views on the way plastics are used and the way appliances are constructed are valuable. There is an Underwriters’ Laboratory report on fire containment that I have linked to elsewhere and also passed to BSI – who, like the IEC, I am sure already have that and other appropriate research work in front of them. UL are represented on the IEC. These experts will be looking at safety in the round. Talking about it here is instructive but a waste of time unless the talk is acted upon, by making those who can act aware of valuable information and constructive suggestions.

Which? should, in my view, be one of those organisations actively involved with BSI to represent consumers views and concerns, and to discuss information gleaned from their own testing. I hope they are now, or soon will be.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Error.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Just a point of clarification on the Intro. In the third paragraph Jen refers to “Whirlpool branded fire-risk dryers”. So far as I can remember, none of the reports of fires in our many Conversations on this topic have related to Whirlpool-branded products. They have generally referred to the products made by Indesit under various brand names as stated in paragraph four, namely Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline, Swan and Creda. When Whirlpool acquired Indesit it also bought their brands but I did not think Whirlpool machines were also made by Indesit. For the avoidance of confusion it is probably best to refer to the tumble dryers which are the subject of this campaign as Indesit [etc] machines now the responsibility of Whirlpool.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Simply referring to Whirlpool does at least draw attention to the company that is currently responsible for the problem dryers. It is easy for consumers to establish if they have a model requiring attention and there is, indeed, no reference to any model sold as a ‘Whirlpool’ dryer.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Quite right – no Whirlpool branded machines are implicated in this action. I agree we need to keep the Whirlpool corporation at the forefront as they are responsible for dealing with the problem they have acquired.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“We’ve been talking about this safety issue for almost 15 months now, ” – and that’s more or less all you’ve done. While you just talk, everyone else waits.

Suggestions have been made about
– redress for owners,
– requests to test duff machines to see why they are a risk
– requests to check whether machines comply fully with Europe-wide and international safety standards
– requests to pass members and contributors suggestions on to those who keep standards imptoving
– requests to explain why the law – Sale of Goods Act – that requires unsafe products to be repaired, replaced or refunded without unreasonable inconvenience

all without any response. Talking gets you nowhere. We’ve now had this problem for 17 months. We should be taking positive action against Whirlpool. Why not?

In the absence of any action from Which? I have contacted BSI, passed them some appropriate information, and had a response that this has been passed to the relevant committee. They have an active working group currently looking at appliance fires. Anyone can contact BSI – the committee relevant in this case is CPL/61 – with their constructive suggestions or comments. What’s stopping you?

Ad hoc “tests” are not appropriate. Standards lay down strict, scientifically supported, test procedures to ensure relevance, consistency, and appropriate interpretation between laboratories. This includes plastics. Standards organisations are already aware of possible fire-containment and are looking at that as experts.

Talking endlessly about this will be of no help to those stuck with potentially unsafe machines. Do something positive and you can both help them, and help the standards authorities improve safety.

Member
nicola says:
11 February 2017

I had asked for my dryer to be fixed and with in the same week,
it was taken a part and fitted a new back plate. had no problem of over heating sins.
works better than befor we had it repaired

Member
jack black says:
12 February 2017

Lucky you, Nicola. We have been waiting 13 months, and all we have had is promises that an engineer will be coming soon !

Member
roger says:
11 February 2017

need more to sign up to get job done

Member
Molly says:
11 February 2017

I have an affected dryer and have been waiting over a year for modification to make it safe. The initial estimate was almost a year from notification to modification but Hotpoint/Whirlpool have failed even to meet this ridiculously long lead time. To ask customers not to use at night or when out is unacceptable as that’s what it was bought for, paying for specific features to enable unattended use! Absolutely disgusted with the service and pathetic effort being made by the company to rectify this serious safety issue. I don’t want to pay them for a discounted replacement; I want a full refund to take my business elsewhere. They should recall all affected products and put an end to this saga before their reputation is irreversibly tarnished. Wholeheartedly support any action to bring them to book. Please sign up to the petition; make your voice heard and let’s face it, what harm can it do?!

Member

About 30 years ago, I bought an Indesit Tumble dryer. After a couple of years, the driving belt broke, So I took it apart and fitted a new one, which was not an easy task, as it required almost completely dissembling it. In discovered that, despite cleaning the filter after every use, there was fluff in almost every crevice in the machine, some of it badly scorched. Thereafter, I took the machine apart every year of so to remove the fluff.
The machine was still working after 20 years, when I dumped it because I was moving.

Non- condensing, vented dryers are a fire waiting to happen, whoever makes them! They consist of nothing more than a drum, a fan, a motor and an unguarded electric element. To save energy, some of the air is recirculated, so fluff from the clothes, which escapes the filter, goes over the electric element.
My old machine had a steel casing so may have contained a fire. Nevertheless, these machines are very expensive to run and should be labelled “Don’t Buys”. They are however cheap.

Tumble dryers with a heat pump, pass dry air over the clothes, and then condense the return air to remove the water and reheat it in the other side of the tiny refrigeration plant. The air doesn’t touch any really hot surfaces, and so is unlikely to cause a fire. Dust and fluff still escape the filter. So the machine needs a thorough clean now and again to maintain efficiency. The machine I have now is a Bosch and provision is made to get at the places, where dust collects more easily.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree that heat-pump dryers are the sensible option to minimise the risk of a fire. They cost more and take longer to dry but I would not want a vented or condenser dryer in my home.

Your old dryer would be well on the way to being able to contain a fire, though it might have needed a metal plate added to the open base.

Here is some information about fires in domestic appliances: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/06/which-reveals-the-home-appliances-most-likely-to-catch-fire-406053/

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

You don’t need a more expensive heat pump dryer if they use lower-temperature heating elements in conventional dryers. However, as has been pointed out many times, the chances of a fire are very very low. It would be useful to be told why the affected Indesit dryers are regarded as unsafe.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Heat-pump dryers are readily available whereas I am not aware of any ones with low temperature heating elements. Maybe that could happen in the future.

Those who have had a fire in their home might not be comforted by the ‘very very low’ incidence of fires. We need solutions that will help people now.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

It is a suggestion that perhaps, if Which? engage with BSI, could be considered. You’d have to wait longer for your clothes to dry.

Nothing will ever be made completely safe, so a very very low incidence of fires through fault, neglect, misuse or any reason has to be expected. Just as planes occasionally crash.

Member
Susan Croxson says:
11 February 2017

fire breaking out in dryers is not acceptable. I have been in a fire and only just escaped with burning hair and no eyebrows. It took several months to get back in our house.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Sorry to hear about your narrow escape, Susan. Was your fire caused by a tumble dryer and if so, was it one of the ones that was due for modification?

Member
Terry McArdle says:
12 February 2017

The damage caused to ANY PROPERTY whatsoever be the responsibility of these faulty machine manufacturers as they are a known and now well documented FIRE HAZARD.
There are also extremely dangerous toxic gases given off hot or burning plastics which may be inhaled by the occupants in or near the affected property, this should also be the responsibility of these murderous manufacturers.
ANY deaths should result in charges of corporate murder at ALL levels, due to the time this is taking to rectify.

The GOVERNMENT should stop the use of these products and force the manufacturers to withdraw ALL their products from sale, until these dangerous units are replaced.

The have a duty of care to everybody who purchases and uses any of their products and the GOVERNMENT has a duty to ensure ALL HEALTH and SAFETY rules and duty of care is upheld.

Profile photo of Biggles
Member

I wonder what make this tumble drier was…..
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-38989932

Member
James C says:
22 February 2017

I originally checked my model number against a list of faulty dryers published some time ago and was relieved to find it was not one of those affected. Neither have we been contacted by Whirlpool, even though they know we have it as we bought it directly from their site in Peterborough. Very surprised when I went on the ‘new’ online checker today and entered the serial number to find my machine IS now one of those affected! How many more people think they have a safe machine from previous check only it turns out they have a dangerous machine after all?

Member
robin grantham says:
22 February 2017

Al this technical arguing is, in my humble opinion, somewhat missing the point, which simply put is this — Whirlpool are responsible for selling machines that are fit for purpose and in this they have CLEARLY failed, yet the Government and their Agents i.e. Peterborough Trading Standards Authority are clearly in breach of their duty to Public Safety.
They should all be taken to Court and if found guilty, individuals should be banged up, just like you or I would be if we set fire to peoples homes. Whether by design or negligence it makes little difference if you pay for something to dry your clothes safely and instead it catches fire!!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Whirlpool did not sell these machines – they were sold before Whirlpool took over Indesit who manufactured them. Where Whirpool failed is in not dealing with an inherited problem properly (to say the least!). Peterborough Trading Standards failed in not requiring a proper and reasonable plan for affected customers, and where Which? failed was an inability to do anything on behalf of consumers and in giving advice they have now reversed.

A sorry tale all round, and for Which? to claim a WIN! ? Who has won? Not the consumer whom they claim to represent.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Some of the machines were sold after Whirlpool took over Indesit. If I buy a secondhand car it is my responsibility to make sure that it is safe to use. Likewise, a company should take responsibility for products that have been sold by companies it purchases. If Whirlpool had behaved responsibly and in a timely fashion we would not be having this discussion.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

No one is disputing Whirlpool’s responsibility (are they?). The issue is how they have dealt with the problem, and how poor and ineffective have been the actions of those supposed to represent consumers’ interests.

Almost from the outset I proposed that as the unsafe (admitted) feature of specified dryers was covered by the Sale of Goods Act, this should be used by consumers to get redress without unreasonable inconvenience. This was rebuffed by Which?. Now they say:
“Our advice is to go straight to Whirlpool to demand your machine is fixed but also try speaking to the retailer you bought it from for a replacement.”
Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/02/dont-use-your-fire-risk-tumble-dryer/ – Which?

Perhaps if Which? had pointed to SoGA at the outset and urged all consumers, with a template letter from Which?, to pursue their legal rights, backed by a Which? campaign, we might not be where we are now.

That might have been a WIN!.

Member
Jan Tibbles says:
22 February 2017

Bizarrely I find myself unsure on how to comment. When this problem was first aired (and I really can’t remember when) my tumble drier was less than 12 months old and I was only alerted to the problem by my niece, who lives in Lincoln. I contacted ‘Whirlpool’ , was given a date and provisional time and waited for the service engineer to appear. He didn’t put in an appearance, so I contacted the company again, obviously less than pleased by a total waste of my time, and was given another date. They phoned, arrived on said date, and replaced the tumble drier ! Was I just very, very fortunate? Or was it the fact that my original drier was less than 12 months old that prompted the speedy action?
Despite such speedy service I’m very wary when using the drier based on all of the awful situations that I’ve read about, and would never, ever leave the drier running and leave our home. This was never something to be considered before and certainly all of the bad press makes you very wary. So very sorry for all of the families with small children and mega amounts of laundry to dry. This needs addressing and resolving ASAP.

Member
David Townsend says:
22 February 2017

I had one of these driers and was no problem.Reported that I had one of these alleged faulty machines which never gave me a problem.Within two weeks I was told that I was in a queue for repair or I could buy a new replacement drier for £57 which I did.No problem

Member
Nancy Stokes says:
23 February 2017

I find it incomprehensible that a company that knows it has sold a dangerous product needs to be told by the government to do something about it but if this is the case take it to the government. I won’t be buying any products from the companies.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Today Which? is urging me to support Andy Slaughter’s petition – from last November – “We’re backing Andy Slaughter MP’s petition in order to secure a debate in Parliament on this issue.” Essentially, the petition says “We are concerned that manufacturers Whirlpool UK have failed to recall the faulty dryers, of which there are around 5 million in Britain, and have not changed their safety advice to consumers, despite the London Fire Brigade advising consumers to stop using the machines with immediate effect.”

The advice has now been changed. However, he does not say how a “recall” might work given that there are (Kenneth Watt estimates) 2,4 million users who have not responded, despite all the publicity, and whose contact details are presumably unknown.

Until we have a proper appliance registration system – and I suggest it be compulsory to register your essential contact details with the retailer at time of purchase – I don’t see how recalls just through publicity can be effective. Now, if Andy Slaughter proposed a practical recall system for appliances, and campaigned for that, I might see some point in signing a petition.

Member
JOSEPH WADDINGTON says:
23 February 2017

I own one and have tried for months phone (always busy, even picked up then put down without reply) looked for model number could not find mine? sent emails same result, no replies .

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
Member

Hello Joseph, the safety warning affects certain lines of Whirlpool owned dryers that were manufactured before October 2015. It may be that your dryer isn’t affected, but you can double check this by taking a look at the models we list here http://www.which.co.uk/whirlpool

If you have a Hotpoint or Indesit machine you can check your machine by going to https://safety.hotpoint.eu and https://safety.indesit.eu websites.