9,754 fires have been caused by white goods in the UK since 2014 according to The Sun. That’s 10 fires-a-day. In light of these numbers, how can the product safety system be seen to be working?
Figures revealed by The Sun show that nearly ten fires a day are caused by faulty white goods products. With numbers like that, thousands of households are being potentially put at risk.
It’s clear that the government needs to stop dragging its feet and put in place a product safety system fit for purpose.
According to The Sun’s data, in the three years from 2014, 9,574 fires were caused by white goods including washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge-freezers, resulting in at least five deaths. The real figure is likely to be higher as only 30 out of 51 fire and rescue services responded to The Sun’s freedom of information request.
The number of fires caused by white goods indicates failures in the product safety and recall system.
But this is just one market. White goods don’t include all of the electronic items sitting in your living room, under the stairs and in your garage or shed.
Product safety system
Sadly, the government doesn’t appear to be listening. In fact, the Consumer Minister, Margot James, said: ‘There is a robust system in place if faulty products need to be repaired or replaced.’
But we know that the system is failing and this has been amply demonstrated by the long-running Whirlpool-owned fire-risk tumble dryer saga.
As some of you will know, we first started talking about this in 2015, when it was reported that around 750 fires were linked to some Whirlpool-owned Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan tumble dryers. And then last year we had the news that a tower block fire in Shepherds Bush, which left 50 people unable to return to their homes, was started by an affected fire-risk dryer.
Despite us challenging Whirlpool to step up to sort this mess out it has so far failed to issue a full product recall on the fire risk tumble dryers, or even publish a comprehensive list of affected models.
Our CEO, Peter Vicary-Smith, explained here on Which? Convo last month that both Whirlpool and Peterborough Trading Standards have failed to act quickly and in the best interests of consumers. Meanwhile, the Consumer Minister is failing to use any of the enforcement powers available to her and fix this problem now.
A broken system
Our current product safety system is heavily reliant on a local approach to a national problem that involves global companies. What’s more is that local trading standards, who currently deal with product safety problems, are not set up to handle this.
And when something does go wrong there’s currently no single source for information where consumers can find out about the recall or safety issue.
We know this system isn’t working. When these issues were last debated in Parliament in April, the Consumer Minister praised Whirlpool for managing to register almost 40% of affected machines for repair or replacement almost two years after the issue came to light, as this exceeded the industry standard of 10-20%!
Do you think Consumer Minister Margot James MP was right to say the product safety system is robust?
No (97%, 582 Votes)
Yes (3%, 15 Votes)
Total Voters: 597
Just let that sink in for a moment. Potentially millions of fire risk tumble dryers remain in homes and that is considered a positive outcome. Thousands of fires are caused by faulty machines every year and the Minister responsible has publicly called the current product safety system ‘robust’.
This isn’t acceptable, and that’s why we’re calling for an urgent overhaul of the UK’s product safety system.
Are your concerned about the safety of your home appliances? Do you enough is being done to protect us from dangerous products? Should the government take action and revise the product safety system?