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Which? launches a judicial review to push for action on Whirlpool

London Fire Brigade

Which? has commenced the formal process to judicially review Peterborough Trading Standards’ handling of the Whirlpool tumble dryer safety issue.

For those unfamiliar with this story, certain lines of Whirlpool tumble dryers sold under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan brands are at risk of catching fire.

Back in November, I wrote here on Which? Conversation about Whirlpool’s failings in assisting some customers who have fire-risk tumble dryers in their homes.

I emphasised that we’ve been highlighting the case in the media, meeting with key Government stakeholders and I also promised that we would continue to push hard for this issue to be resolved.

Today, we’ve done just that – by holding Peterborough Trading Standards to account for its role in the fiasco.

Trading Standards’ role

Whirlpool’s UK headquarters are located in Peterborough, so it’s Peterborough City Council’s Trading Standards department that has been dealing with the matter.

It has repeatedly told us that it’s advising Whirlpool in its capacity as Whirlpool’s ‘primary authority’. This is a voluntary arrangement, under which Trading Standards can help a business to comply with consumer protection rules.

When this system works well, it can have good outcomes for consumers and businesses alike. But being a ‘primary authority’ for a business doesn’t mean that a regulator can ignore its duty to enforce the law where this becomes necessary. And in this case, we believe the system has gone badly wrong.

Failing consumers

An investigation by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) recently concluded that a Whirlpool tumble dryer was to blame for a serious tower block fire in Shepherd’s Bush.

In light of the LFB’s report, we would expect Peterborough Trading Standards to put on its enforcement ‘hat’ and consider whether Whirlpool’s handling of the situation remained on the right side of the line.

We believe that Peterborough Trading Standards has failed consumers by not properly carrying out its role as an enforcer of product safety laws.

We’ve filed papers against Peterborough City Council, the Local Authority that the trading standards department forms part of, in the High Court to start this judicial review process.

We expect Peterborough Trading Standards to conduct a fresh, independent assessment of the risks posed to consumers by the millions of faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers that are still in people’s homes, and not shy away from enforcement action if it’s needed.

The court will now determine whether Which? should be granted permission to seek judicial review. If permission is granted, it will lead to a court hearing in 2017.

Product safety system

This case further highlights the many problems with the existing product safety system that is failing consumers and must be reconsidered by the government.

Today, I’ve also written to the Secretary of State, Greg Clark MP, and have discussed my concerns with Consumer Minister, Margot James MP. We want to see action not just in this case, but in all cases where product safety issues could put consumers at risk.

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