/ Home & Energy

Update: 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.

Update: 28 February 2017

Today the government has posted its response to Andy Slaughter MP’s petition calling for a recall of Whirlpool-branded fire-risk dryers.

This response has been expected since the petition passed the minimum threshold of 10,000 signatures, which was a little over two weeks ago. If we can get this petition to 100,000 signatures by 1 May 2017, then it must be considered for a debate in Parliament – at the time of publishing the petition stands at 57,374.

The government has stated that when it comes to product safety it thinks consumers should ‘reasonably expect clear advice on how to safely use products in their home, and prompt and effective action should be taken if a safety issue is identified’.

The government notes that despite the 1.5 million affected registered dryers there are still many unregistered and unmodified dangerous dryers in the UK.

The response also highlights that Margot James, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, has called on Whirlpool to progress with its repair programme and improve communications with consumers. The Minister has expressed concerns about reaching consumers with affected machines who’ve not yet registered for a repair or replacement.

But, we believe it’s time a full recall was issued.

If you own a Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline, Swan or Creda tumble dryer which you purchased before October 2015 then your dryer could be affected by this safety warning.

Last week we reported that the safety advice for affected dryers has now been revised. Those with affected dryers need to unplug the dryer and stop using the machine until it has been modified.

Check to see if your dryer is affected and find out what your rights are here.

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?

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:

?zoom=2&resize=800%2C1422

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 DerekP
Member

“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.”

In my experience both BSI and ISO operate a commercial entities, funding their activities via the sale of their standards. Their standards are freely available (in the sense of “free speech” and a free press) but sadly not in the sense of free beer.

Hence members of the public can either buy copies or borrow them from libraries.

Also, under UK Health & Safety law, manufacturers and retailers (and their employees) all have duties in respect of the effect of their activities on public safety.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Consumers are actually paying for production and updating of standards because companies pass on their costs to us in the costs of products and services. Relatively few public libraries subscribe to online access to British Standards and it is not permissible to copy more than 10% of a document. I have no idea if printed documents are available in libraries but reference documents are not available for loan in public libraries. Standards can be purchased but the costs are out of reach of most people, given that they should be read in conjunction with various other standards.

If I want to read the contents of the Consumer Rights Act, or study the regulations applying to telecommunications or energy supply I can look them up and obtain a copy for no charge.

At one time scientific papers were only available to individuals and institutions that subscribed to the journals, much in the same way that standards are currently available. Thanks to a different funding scheme (essentially the costs of peer review and publishing are paid for by the authors) everyone has free access to articles online. The publishers still get paid and this ‘open access’ publishing is becoming more popular because those who publish their work want it to be read by as many people as possible. I have suggested that publication of standards could be funded by the companies required to comply with them, and we can all benefit from online access to documents that directly affect public safety.

The fact that fire can spread from appliances rather than being contained demonstrates to me that the current standards are either inadequate or there is a compliance issue.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I keep repeating that fire containment is being looked at by the national and international standards authorities. Non-experts are not always right in their solutions to problems. I’d rely on those who are knowledgeable to look at all the evidence and make a considered decision – including the fire services who are represented.

There are ways of accessing standards for free. I would like Which? to look at getting access for nominated members. I would like all libraries to provide online access – but they have other more pressing uses for council tax perhaps.

The ISO, IEC, and national bodies can only operate because they receive income from the sale of standards – whether paper or online. That money to support standards work would have to be found from somewhere else if they were “free”. Taxation? No – I think those who need standards should pay for them. This includes many public bodIes, educational establishments and other non-profit organisations.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have repeatedly explained how scientific publishing is moving to open access systems. I remember well when companies – the publishers – said that this could not and would not happen. The academic community thought different and progress has been made. I’m not aware of any companies going bust as a result. We might yet lose some of the publishers that have stuck with requiring institutions and individuals to pay for access.

There is no need for libraries to pay a penny if we change how the production and maintenance of standards is funded differently.

Once again, the funding of production and updating of standards can be provided by levying appropriate charges on the companies and organisations required to use particular standards. I don’t want to be deprived of access to standards just because we are living in the past.

Profile photo of DerekP
Member

Based on my own recent experience with ISO and BSI standards, both my employer (and me) are already paying a substantial parts of the costs of updating the standards. We get no funding from either BSI or ISO for the time we spend commenting on circulated draft standards (not all of which takes place in core time).

If we had to actually pay BSI or ISO so that we could comment or contribute to those drafts, that might give those organisations funding to cover publication costs. However a more likely outcome would be us ruling out any non-essential standards as “not applicable” to our business. For example, we might decide to support only ANSI and not ISO and BSI as well.

Where regulations require compliance with standards, then one way forward would be for the regulators to make the relevant standards freely available. This already happens with documents produced by HSE and other regulators.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

You know more than me, Derek. I had assumed that a particular product had to comply with all applicable standards. I am convinced that it is valuable to have information relevant to our health and safety readily available to all. There are plenty of young retired people with time on their hands who could use their expertise to help improve standards.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

“help improve standards”. There are opportunities to do this with the standard organisations. If you have the appropriate expertise, join a committee through a represented organisation. You can also contribute as an individual direct to the national organisation – BSI.

I keep hoping that Which?, with its knowledge andreports on product testing, consumer feedback etc. would play a leading role on the appropriate BSI committees helping shape the relevant international standards. which? could establish a group of suitably qualified, informed and interested Members to help it in this work.

Products for sale in the EU must conform to the European standards (generally Euro norms). These may share information from other national standards but will be specific to the region where necessary.

Member
Josephine Bacon says:
28 March 2017

Instead of using a dryer, here is a revolutionary suggestion: why use a dryer at all? Dryers ruin your clothes, especially woollens. Sunlight is an antiseptic and a much healthier way to dry clothes. I have never used a dryer except at a launderette. My late-mother-in-law used a dryer and she lived in New Mexico! My husband was astonished that I was drying clothes in the open air and being an accountant calculated that I saved us around US$300 a year that way! Even back in England, I would not dream of using a dryer at home.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

A lovely day today. Mrs r made use of solar power and wind energy to dry clothes for free on our clothes line. Indoors, if the weather is inclement, a traditional clothes horse does a decent, if slow, job.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Always cone to back up tradition malcolm ,especially when it is practical and down to earth.

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.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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If American business practices are introduced in the UK then we have every right to American protection laws being introduced as well otherwise regardless of who thinks what, in reality we will be treated like a Third World country.

Profile photo of John Ward
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We have excellent consumer protection legislation in the UK, Duncan. What we seem to lack is the ability to enforce it because the enforcing authorities [regulators, trading standards, ombudsmen, and so on] are both feeble and under-resourced. I have to assume that by avoiding much publicly-funded commitment to health and social welfare, the authorities in the USA have more money to spend on trade regulation and consumer protection.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Its not just the point of “feeble and under resourced ” John, this was done intentionally , as I am sure you know by previous governments legislation to FREE UP ” the business community to allow less restriction on big businesses , don’t you remember the big media exercise on how this will -“push Britain forward ” increase our GDP , turn this country into a “business dynamo ” etc-etc-etc- that was the real point not the excuse of – “we cant afford it ” . John in the USA its citizens deal DIRECTLY with the US Government Administrative Departments and BOY !!! you should see the powers they have and use . This bank scam business at least two departments deal with it including the Dept.of Justice-know who is involved ? FBI- the secret service ( logistics ) and a whole platoon of secret agencies to track the offenders to boot . Sentences ? – 15 years -30 years imprisonment and in the US 30 years means 30 years , tears don’t count. Their Federal Banking Control Dept.- here to help the American public ( motto ) –and they do. Awe inspiring .

Profile photo of John Ward
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You are right, Duncan, in the early days of the coalition government [2010-15] there was what they called a “bonfire of the regulations” and a lot of good measures were consigned to the fire. Many were replaced by more vague and unspecific legislation which is harder to enforce and less certain in its outcome as very few cases come to court.

I have no doubt the American system has a lot more muscle and the enforcement agencies are obviously much better resourced. That could be a reflection of the scale of the problem in America. I find it difficult to judge from several thousand miles away how much better protected the Americans are in practice. Perhaps it’s a case of “you can sell a gun to anyone but make sure you don’t rip them off”.

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Mark Gammage says:
28 February 2017

I have a drier that is affected and have unplugged and informed Whirlpool. I have now had an e-mail offering a brand new drier (with a contribution to the price £59-99) or the option to wait for a repair.
Whirlpool state “Leading Consumer Associations have referenced that it could represent better value for money than having an older machine modified” – would this be the WHICH? advice?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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It is good advice to have a new machine rather than a repair, but I believe your legal rights under the Sale of Goods Act entitle you to the choice of a replacement at no cost or a repair if the machine is under 6 years old and identified as faulty. Which? might like to comment.

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Jenny Pearce says:
3 March 2017

I have complained to Whirlpool as I have now been waiting OVER A YEAR since registering for a repair. This morning’s email from them implies that in over a year less than 200,000 modifications have been made and over £36Million has been paid by people who have taken the option of paying Hotpoint £59 or more to get a machine that does not have this dangerous design failure. They are using their failure to design a safe dryer as a means of selling additional discounted dryers and avoid the cost of making repairs.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Yes Jenny and unlike you many just haven’t “cottoned on ” to or don’t want to talk about it.

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Vicki Milford says:
3 March 2017

My dryer was modified on 01/03/17, but I was given no paperwork to confirm this. The engineer said he didn’t have anything other than a leaflet about repairs, but went through a strange explanation about a new nut in the drum being proof of the modification! I therefore contacted Hotpoint on the safety issue number and after giving an explanation of my concern, I was told I would receive an email the following day, Thursday, from a Manager. This did not happen. Today, 03/03/17, I contacted the same safety number and was put through to the repairs department, who couldnt help me, but suggested I conduct a live chat on the Indesit website. I eventually found the chat facility on the Hotpoint website and after 15 minutes, received rather begrudgingly, two emails, one stating the modification had been completed and a second stating my appliance was now safe. I can’t believe that this company offers nothing in writing that such a serious fault had now been corrected and an appliance was made safe. Surely they should be bending over backwards to reassure their customers of good service!

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Griff says:
4 March 2017

Had mine modified but my repairman is still concerned about the fluff collecting inside the dryer, beware.

Member
David says:
6 March 2017

I had one of the dryers and waited over a year for a repair I ended up having to pay £99 to get it replaced as I have children in the house.why should in have to pay that.utter rubbish.something has to be done.they treat people anyway they like.

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Linda says:
6 March 2017

My tumble dryer is affected by this. Hotpoint waited for months after I had registered my new machine before informing me of the problem, I have now waited for over a year for the promised modification. I was emailed yesterday to say I can book the modification, but their form didn’t work. I telephoned and was told that I can buy a cheap replacement but this seems to be never in stock, judging by the information they gave and an online search regarding the problem.

I bought the machine from John Lewis, who delivered it to my address and over a year later have still not informed me of the risk this machine presents. It was a mistake thinking that John Lewis are a more reputable supplier than cheaper retailers. If I had not registered with Hotpoint I might still have not known. Why didn’t John Lewis check their records when this issue became known, and contact the customers to whom they had sold a potentially dangerous machine?

I had a few months of use from the machine before hearing of the fire risk. Because I live in a block of flats I stopped using it immediately and have had huge difficulty for over a year trying to dry my laundry as I have no outside space to use.

Profile photo of John Ward
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You are right, Linda: a major kitchen appliance supplier like John Lewis should have invested in a bit of after-sales customer-care and contacted purchasers. I cannot believe they were ignorant of the problem. It’s the kind of extra service you expect to get from a reputable organisation to mark them out from the sheds on the ring roads and the on-line warehouses. If Peterborough Trading Standards hadn’t been asleep on the case they might have picked up the fact that a handful of retailers’ databases would probably have given them contact details for half the affected machines. Does data protection trump health and safety? I hope not.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I don’t know if retailers are involved in recalls. Recalls are generally issued by the manufacturer so unless they have collected information from the retailer or the product has been registered, they will have no idea of who to inform.

The government is looking at registration of products for the purposes of recalls but they need to bite the bullet and manage this properly rather than leaving it up to a charity or trade association.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Did absolutely nobody go to the retailer when their “Whirlpool” tumble dryer caught fire?

Profile photo of malcolm r
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People were given advice that deterred them from exercising their legal rights, which were against the retailer. Maybe this was because these only help people with dryers 6 years old or less (5 in Scotland). The Sale of Goods Act gives not only rights for repair or replacement – free of charge as far as I can see – but it also requires the redress to be done without unreasonable delay and inconvenience to the customer; consequential losses can then be claimed for.

In hindsight, those responsible for consumer protection might think again about how to advise consumers to be properly treated and compensated. In the Whirlpool case they have been dealt with as secondary to the manufacturer – just as Sony phone owners were when their screens cracked. Who is really capable of helping consumers receive their just rights?

Profile photo of Beryl
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Surely it’s up toTS to alert the general public when an issue as widespread and dangerous as this occurs?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Public information announcements on TV at the start of popular programmes such as the news and soap operas might well be effective.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Automatic registration of appliance and basic contact details, by the seller at the time of sale, would provide the basis to ensure as many purchasers as possible could be informed. Such a system would not be reliant on affected consumers happening upon information in the press or on tv, and then doing something about it. One feature of the huge Whirlpool problem is that many of those affected have not taken action to have their machines registered for action, let alone registered them, even though their has been a large amount of publicity.

Profile photo of Beryl
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‘Watchdog’ would be a good place to start.

Profile photo of wavechange
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One reason why people don’t register products is because of marketing. We need to make it illegal for companies to use contact details or any of our information for marketing. Having the choice of opting out is not good enough. In order to quality for a free extended guarantee it is necessary to register a product. Why should that be necessary?

I agree that Watchdog would be a good place to provide information about recalls to help those who have unregistered products.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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But all very hit and miss. Audience figures probably represent less than 15% of households, many of whom will not know the details of their appliances at the time a warning might be broadcast. We need something as all-embracing as possible otherwise we just end up with the Whirlpool situation – according to some, 2.4 million owners not contacting Whirlpool.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Some people may not register because of marketing. Many simply do not bother. I have stressed earlier that registration at the point of sale should include only essential contact details and marketing using that information should be banned. No ad hoc system will allow full recalls. Watchdog and the like can help, but not replace, a proper registration and recall system. Relying on people to self-register and to act on recall information has been shown to be ineffective.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Yes and we need action, not talk. It might have happened sooner if it had not been for irresponsible behaviour by SOME companies. Even if compulsory registration happened tomorrow, we need to help those who already own appliances, hence the possibility that TV may be a useful medium. We also have to cope with secondhand products and people who move home and the increasing popularity of internet sales. Those in rented flats sometimes move around and multi-occupancy buildings present greater risks in event of fire.

From my experience we can help by asking friends, family and even strangers if they have an affected dryer. Surprisingly, I’ve found a few people who know they have a dryer but don’t know what brand it is.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Its good to hear that someone else also supports action, and not just words. I would hope Which? will be considering how best to register products and the subsequent recall system that consumers would like to see up and running as soon as possible. They regularly meet with government and this would be an opportune time to discuss it with the consumers’ minister.

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I am strongly in favour of a retailer-based mandatory registration scheme run either under a regulator or ombudsman or some other appropriate independent organisation. The costs of registration could be recharged to the manufacturer or brand owner on a per unit basis.

While some people might have been deterred from registering products by the prospect of marketing contacts I feel this is overrated. In the first place there is no necessity to tick all those lifestyle boxes that appear on the registration documents [and I agree they should be banned in future]. Secondly, I have always registered all major products where a facility to do so is provided. There might have been some marketing follow-up – it is impossible to tell – but I certainly cannot attribute any of the junk mail that comes through the door or by e-mail to the registration of a product and even if there were any it would be a tiny percentage of the unwanted addressed material that comes in the post that I know for certain is not a result of a product registration.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I can see the value of retailer-based registration but I wonder how this would work with online suppliers, particularly with smaller items.

Many years ago, I learned from a computer scientist that it was easy to provide a unique email address to companies to track how they pass on email addresses. With my ISP I could, for example, give out email addresses of wavechange1@, wavechange2@, wavechange3@. When I receive emails to these addresses they all land up in the same mailbox (unless filtered) but it is easy to see which company ignores requests for no marketing or has passed on contact details. I will not accept that opting out of marketing as a viable solution.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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An online supplier would register your product in exactly the same way (unless it were perhaps some less official import). As they will be delivering it to you they will automatically have a contact address as well as an email address.

Like John, I have registered appliances and not been inundated with marketing information.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I have registered products without obvious problems, but as I’m sure you know, email addresses and phone numbers do get sold by unscrupulous companies. Even ordering online can result in companies misusing information. For example, I recently placed a click & collect order with Halfords. Within two weeks I have been contacted three times. I want use of information collected for product registration separated from marketing and market research, and I am not alone.

I seems unlikely that the thousands of online retailers will all dutifully collect and pass on details for registration of products they sell so I would welcome additional means of registration and have previously suggested ways that individuals could do this.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I understand your reservations about your personal details being misused. However, voluntary registration has been shown to be very ineffective – somewhere I seem to remember less than 20% use it. If a recall system is to be effective then it can only be achieved by aiming to register all appliances. Maybe we could discuss ways of doing that other than registering automatically at point of sale?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks Malcolm. I’m keen to explore the alternatives and see how they could work together. I fully accept that voluntary registration on its own is inadequate.

My suggestion is that retailers are required to record customers details and pass them on to a registration agency under government control – as we do with cars. Consumers should be able to see a record of their purchases and this could be valuable for insurance purposes. Consumers would also be able to record change of address and other contact details and remove items that have been disposed of – scrapped, given away or sold. When a recall is announced by the manufacturer, this information goes into the EC Rapex database and then everyone who has a potentially dangerous product can be contacted – just like a car recall.

We tend to think about registering large appliances but small electrical goods are often subject to recalls. Registration by retailers might help Trading Standards monitor dangerous and counterfeit goods that are passed on to legitimate retailers.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
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That’s been tried with gas products under CORGI.

It failed. Miserably.

Retailers have enough to do so unless there’s a financial incentive or it’s a legal requirement…

Then there’s the question of what does it apply to? Everything, everything with a plug on it, everything that uses power or gas, just some things making it discriminatory or what is it exactly?

Then are we all are expected to rely on consumers updating records when the move or change whatever it is that’s being registered which, could easily run to scores of products if it’s everything with a plug on it. I can tell you now, that’d fall over as people won’t do it, forgetting all about it the number one reason I expect.

Might seem simple. Really isn’t.

And, it’d cost a blooming fortune to set up and administrate.

I can see it now, that’ll be £10 for your kettle and £10 to register it for you… I’ll go out on limb and say, that won’t be popular.

This is a nightmare topic that’s been scrutinised in the appliance industry as, it is a problem and everyone knows it but, there are no easy solutions. Everyone wants a solution, it’s just not easy to get to one.

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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We see this the same way! 🙂 I also want an independent administration of the scheme, and it should apply to small electrical appliances also.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Kenneth, I rarely disagree with you because you have a knowledgable and pragmatic approach to appliances. However, as for many people a retailer will collect the basic details anyway i do not see transmitting these to a central database as necessarily overtaxing nor expensive.

I agree it needs to be mandatory – a legal requirement if you like – otherwise we’ll be no further on. The payoff will be the increased ability to deal with dangerous appliances before too much harm is done. Costs should be born by the retailer in my view (the customer pays in the end of course).

I would start with nominated major domestic appliances, to get a scheme up and running and tested as soon as we can. When it functions properly we can gradually add other appliances in order of risk.

Profile photo of wavechange
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There may be no need to reinvent the wheel if we look at successful systems, such as used for car recalls and possibly what other countries do. There will be costs in setting up the system but like Malcolm, I don’t see why its operation need be onerous or expensive. I made extensive use of transferring information from one database to another at work. It was easy and saved a great deal of time.

There is merit in starting off with compulsory registration of white goods because this is what is putting pressure on the government to take action.

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Malcolm, I did say either or and, knowing retailers there’s every possibility they’d just punt the cost on somewhere, even if you don’t see it. It’d cost them to adapt systems, support it through time etc so, there’s a cost. One way or another, the customer will have to pay for that service, no doubt about it.

To my knowledge, no other country has a system that works either. I’ve not come across one nor heard of one and, again to my knowledge, neither have any manufacturers as this seems to be a global problem with no obvious solution in sight.

Looking at cars in this respect I think could be somewhat misleading.

You legally need to register them with their own unique (or personally unique) registration mark. You pay road fund licence fees and that funds DVLA to the tune of many, many millions if not billions a year. The vehicles *have* to be registered in law, have to be fit for use (MOT after 3 years annually at the owners cost) and *have* to be insured by law.

There’s multiple ways to track the things in other words, many of which are enshrined in law, they are mandatory with no way round them.

To apply the same methodology to a kettle, toaster or even up to a washing machine costs a few hundred pounds would likely by most be considered to be overkill and far too onerous and expensive given the low values involved and the low risks.

If you instigated such a system for major appliance I can hear the screams from lobbyists now of discrimination against one sector of the home electricals industry and what is being done about TV’s audio equipment, PCs, printers, heating products… the list will go on and on.

It’ll all get bogged down with in-fighting between consumer groups, manufacturers, government and then through EU or whatever else gets tossed into the mix and, nothing will happen.

I know, very negative view but, having seen it all unfold in the past…

The lesson was with the gas registration thing for CORGI, supposedly an order of magnitude more dangerous and yet it collapsed in what, two years at best? An abject failure that CORGI and government gambled goodness knows how many millions of taxpayers money on to get zero result.

WEEE another one, failure. That can’t even be done right and they have the stuff!!

I’m sure you can imaging, the appetite from government and all the more so in the current climate for something like this I’d expect to be very, very low.

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Government have already said they want someone to do it – but not them! Actually, in one way I don’t blame them because that would be a recipe for an expensive disaster. But nor would I want to see the traditional outsourcing to a services company that is out to make money and also likely to make a hash of it (benefit assessments, prisons, for example). I think this sort of project could be handed to a university to set up the system, software and maybe hand over to Trading Standards to operate (with their ongoing support). The payment from retailers might be used to partially reinvigorate our ailing TSs.

Profile photo of KennethWatt
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Exactly, everyone appears to want “something” but, nobody wants to fund it.

Owners won’t pay for it, manufacturers won’t even if they could agree on something, TS has no money to do it, government has no money do it and likely don’t much care, retailers not a chance they’ll pay squat for it so, that’ll be that.

I doubt the uni’s would want to know either as, if/when it all goes wrong they’ll take the heat and again, where do they find funding, they’re stretched as much as anyone?

Thing is, nobody really even knows what the “something” is, registration of some sort for sure but what, covering what, who administrates and curates it?

The question on whether it’s even a commercial thing or not can’t even be answered really as, if you use public money it’s not but then that money has to come from somewhere else or, you push up taxes which, in turn, costs the consumer.

If it’s full on commercial there’s a straight up obvious cost.

In the end though regardless of how you slice it, it’d cost money to pay people to do it all and pretty much, that’s it.

Without cash to fund it, it ain’t gonna happen.

I know the WTA are launching a thing to try to do something on this with a bit of a twist on it all but, you can’t force people to register stuff so… you’re back to relying on people to do it and we all know how much of a runaway success that usually proves to be.

K.

Profile photo of wavechange
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OK Kenneth. How would you tackle the problem that many people are unaware of recalls of potentially dangerous products in their homes?

Profile photo of KennethWatt
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If I had an answer I’d offer it.

I don’t.

Many small products the “recall notification” is a sign behind the counter of the shop it was sold in.

Some of the notifications you see, even from the likes of large store or supermarket chains et all and frankly, shockingly bad.

But then again, if people don’t register stuff even for a warranty or an additional warranty, there’s no way for stores to do that nor any incentive to do it… then pile on busy staff with other things to do with this not being own their agenda the fact it’s all a complete mess is not even remotely surprising.

Basically, it’s a mess from start to finish from all angles you look at it with absolutely no controls, checks or balances.

To try to sort all that out across multiple channels with no incentives to do so is a total and complete nightmare.

The focus here is on tumble dryers but, the same applies to all the products I mentioned but beyond that, gas product also among many others.

To fix it would take monumental effort and a similar amount of cash to get anywhere, if you ever got them all which I very much doubt you would. In an environment where more and more products often with shared componentry and platforms are being sold into market so, it’s getting worse as time goes by.

The platform and component sharing is extremely important to recognise as, the more that’s shared when there’s an issue, the more that have issue be it minor right through to dangerous.

As it stands, the best you have is warranty registration, perhaps some extended warranty registration but on that unless there’s a problem you normally won’t have the full details, even the age let alone serial numbers. Both can be inherently unreliable data.

Better than none I would accept but, more holes than a Swiss cheese. At best.

An answer to all that isn’t simple at all and most certainly, there’s no quick fix to it.

K.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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As far as i am aware, the government have not said they won’t fund it, just that they do not want to run it. And if registration were made mandatory – the only way forward in my view – by legislation then the retailers, or whoever, would have no choice and the cost (I don’t see why it should be a big deal) would be included in the selling price. We fund universities and they have competent people so I see no reason why they should not make a good developer of the software and system.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thank you Kenneth, but I would prefer to focus on what can be done and if we focus on registration by retailers then all we need from manufacturers is to notify safety issues promptly.

For the time being I will continue to learn about product recalls from Electrical Safety First: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/ In addition to the searchable list, you can register for email notification of problems. I received notification of the revised advice for owners of the Whirlpool tumble dryers in this way. I don’t own most of the products, certainly not an Ann Summers Black Power Wand. Which? Convo provides enough stimulation for me.

ESF covers only electrical products, not dangerous toys, children’s car seats or the many other products that can occasionally have potentially dangerous faults. I am very disappointed by governments past and present for leaving it up to charities like RecallUK (now disbanded through lack of funding) and ESF to do work that should be the responsibility of government.

Malcolm – I agree that we should move forward. Obviously we need to be aware of the possible problematic issues such as those hinted at by Kenneth. Employing consultants can be useful but I’m involved with taking forward a £600k project funded by the Lottery and that has involved 3 consultants’ reports and cost about £120k. The first was effectively a feasibility study and the other reports were advised by the funders.

Universities might take on software development and I know several computer scientists that work with industry in software development and research.

I have concerns about whether internet retailers would comply with product registration, for example Amazon’s Marketplace traders. Based on my own experience, I’m not convinced that Amazon would take responsibility for the inactions of companies that sell via the Amazon website.