In January, we launched our campaign to challenge Whirlpool over its fire-risk dryers. And the response has been overwhelming with a parliamentary petition calling for a recall of Whirlpool dryers hitting 100,000 signatures. 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 the parliamentary 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.
Update: 28 February 2017
The government has posted its response to the 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.
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.
Update: 24 April 2017
The parliamentary petition calling for a full recall of all Whirlpool UK fire-risk dryers reached 100,000 signatures. Before the General Election was called, the petition had to pass this required threshold by 30th April to be considered for a debate in Parliament.
Alex Neill, our Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:
‘This huge level of public support is a powerful indication that Whirlpool needs to be held to account for its completely inadequate handling of the tumble dryer safety issue.
‘There are still millions of potentially life threatening machines in people’s homes. The next government must act swiftly to force a full product recall of all affected machines to prevent further risk to the safety of consumers and their homes.’
As a General Election has been called and Parliament will dissolve next week, we’ll be picking up with MPs following the election on pressing for this petition to be considered for a debate.
The support for both the parliamentary petition and our own campaign to force action on fire-risk dryers sends a clear message that Whirlpool needs to act in the best interest of consumers and fully recall these potentially dangerous dryers.
Sadly, the battle doesn’t end here – we’ll be continuing to call for a full product recall of these dangerous dryers.
Update: 6 September 2017
A Hotpoint dryer has been blamed as the likely case of flat fire. Denbighshire coroner’s court has concluded that a Hotpoint tumble dryer was the most likely cause of a flat fire which sadly killed two men in Llanrwst in October 2014.
A survivor of the flat fire, Gary Lloyd Jones, told the hearing that on the night of the fire he saw flames coming from the tumble dryer.
The Assistant Coroner found that the fire was likely caused by an electrical fault inside the door of the dryer. The Assistant Coroner, David Lewis, also expressed concerns about the evidence gathered by Whirlpool, the owners of the Hotpoint brand, and dismissed one potential cause proposed by a Whirlpool expert as ‘fanciful’ and ‘unlikely’.
Though we do not yet know the model number of the Hotpoint tumble dryer, we do know that it is one of the dryers affected by the safety notice issued earlier this year following our application for judicial review.
Our Managing Director of Home Products and Services, Alex Neill, said:
‘In the face of the tragic deaths of these two men, Whirlpool can no longer continue to ignore its responsibility for the safety of its customers and must now conduct a full product recall of the potentially lethal tumble dryers in people’s homes across the country.
‘This tragic case shows once again that the product safety system is broken and is potentially putting lives at risk. The government must create a national body that can get unsafe products out of people’s homes.’
We are writing to the coroner to request that he produces a ‘Preventing Future Deaths’ report. This kind of report is produced following an inquest when there is a risk of future deaths happening in a similar way.
We will also be contacting the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to call for a full-product recall of the Hotpoint dryer at the centre of this tragedy.
The government has been too slow to respond to serious incidents – and subsequent reviews – following product-related fires. We want to see urgent changes to the UK’s product safety regime, including the creation of a new national body designed to take control of dangerous situations as they arise and get products out of people’s homes quickly.
Update: 15 September 2017
Disappointingly, Parliament’s Petitions Committee has decided not to debate the petition calling on the government to urge Whirlpool UK to recall all faulty tumble dryers.
Thousands of our campaign supporters signed Andy Slaughter MP’s e-petition in order to force the government to review these dangerous fire-risk dryers. Thank you to those of you who added your name to this petition.
The decision not to go ahead with the debate came despite this e-petition gaining over 100,000 signatures from members of the public.
When deciding which petitions should be debated, the Committee looks at whether the subject has recently been debated in Parliament. In September 2016 there was a debate on faulty fire-risk tumble dryers, the Committee considers this debate to have been sufficient.
We’re disappointed, but this isn’t where our efforts for action on faulty fire-risk dryers will end.
We’re going to continue pressing the government to urgently fix the UK’s broken product safety system, which currently poses grave risks to consumers. We’re calling on the government to take urgent action to put consumers first and to create a new national body to lead on product safety, as well as a genuine ‘one-stop-shop’ to provide authoritative information and advice when dangerous products are identified or recalls are required.
Update: 30 November 2017
Following the inquest into the fire which killed two men in Llanrwst, coroner David Lewis has published a prevention of future deaths report.
In the report, the coroner has raised concerns witnesses called by lawyers for Whirlpool during the hearing had been ‘defensive and dismissive’.
Commenting on the evidence given, Mr Lewis explained:
‘The door switch assembly of interest in this case is used in literally hundreds of thousands of appliances manufactured by Whirlpool.
‘I did not emerge from the hearing confident that Whirlpool’s risk assessment processes have fully identified or appreciated the extent of the risk of fire (and its potential consequences).’
Whirlpool now has 56 days to respond to the report. In its response, it must explain details of action taken or proposed to action to take, or explain why it will take no action at all.
Our managing director of home products and services, Alex Neill, said:
‘The Coroner’s report exposes the fundamental failings of Whirlpool’s handling of unsafe products. The Government should urgently investigate if this is a breach of the company’s obligations under product safety law and immediately enforce a full product recall of all remaining fire risk tumble dryers in people’s home.
‘This case is further evidence that the UK’s product safety regime is simply not fit-for-purpose and must be reformed, with the creation of a new national body to lead on issues of this nature.’
Do you expect the government to take action on this safety issue?