/ Home & Energy

Update: Is your tumble dryer a fire-risk?

Tumble dryer

With more than 100 models of Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers potentially posing a fire-risk and an estimated five million of them in UK homes, do you think brand owner Whirlpool is doing enough to publicise the issue?

[UPDATED 25 FEBRUARY 2016] It’s been three months since news broke about the fire-risk posed by some Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers made between April 2004 and October 2015 – 750 have caught fire leading to three injuries. The manufacturer, Whirlpool, has now added 58,000 Proline and Swan tumble dryers to the list of fire-risk machines.

But, Whirlpool has not yet published a full list of the affected dryers, instead advising consumers to check their models at safety.hotpoint.eu and safety.indesit.eu, or by calling 0800 151 0905.

How did you find out your dryer was a fire risk?

So if your Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan or Proline tumble dryer is part of the safety-alert, how did you find out about this?

Whirlpool published a press release and placed an advert in The Times on 24 November. It also tells us that it’s been in contact with around 400,000 owners since then and retailers are also contacting those customers that they know own fire-risk dryers.

How long will you have to wait for a tumble dryer modification?

We called the helpline (0800 151 0905) in the week before Christmas and were told we’d have to wait eight weeks to have our dryer modified. But we were told we could still use the dryer in that time as long as it wasn’t left unattended and the lint-filter was cleaned after every use.

This is a large scale problem – we know that more than 100 models of Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers are affected and the manufacturer has confirmed that there have been 750 fires. Because of this we think that if you have a fire-risk dryer, you shouldn’t use it until it’s been serviced and modified.

What’s happened to you and your tumble dryer?

Is your tumble dryer part of this safety-alert? You can find out by checking at safety.hotpoint.eu and safety.indesit.eu or by calling 0800 151 0905. And we’ve listed the 113 dryers we know to be affected in our news story.

I’d like to hear your experiences of trying to get your Hotpoint, Indesit or Creda tumble dryer modified. Has this happened yet and if it has, how would you rate the service provided? Or are you on a waiting list and how long have you been told it take to have your tumble dryer modified?

Comments

We have a Hotpoint TCM580P Tumble Dryer. I called the free 0800 151 0905 number, which doesn’t go through to anyone and then you get cut off. You have to phone the 03448 224 224 number which costs. I was told that I would have to wait a week after registering for an email to find out how long I will have to wait for my modification. I was then told that I would have to wait between 9 to 10 months.

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Thanks Duncan. I was going to contact the Association of British Insurers, which I believe is the relevant trade body. Unfortunately, they don’t deal with the general public. Although they have a website, no information about this major recall and the delays in dealing with the problem.

Incidentally, I don’t have a tumble dryer and my concern is about the lack of action taken by the company and our government.

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I don’t see what the government should do. This seems like a consumer legal problem that consumer law might resolve. I would be grateful if Which? could answer the legal questions that have been asked. If the retailers (who are responsible for these appliances) do not take effective action to meet their obligations under SoGA and CRA, or if Whirlpool have contractually taken on all the retailers obligations as seems the case, then an action by Which? on behalf of affected consumers to get repair, refund or replace without unreasonable inconvenience (so quickly)would seem to me to be the next step. It seems at the moment we are prepared to allow consumers to be inconvenienced, but not the manufacturer.

I do realise that Lynn Faulds Wood’s group are looking at recalls, but can we expect any action soon and are they specifically looking at resolving the Whirlpool problem?

Since Whirlpool has failed to act in a timely fashion, I would suggest that the government instructs the company to refund owners of appliances that have not been modified.

It’s bad enough that houses are going on fire but someone could lose their life because the company has failed to make adequate provision to cope with a recall.

Perhaps you could say under what powers the government can instruct a commercial company to take action. They have already laid down consumer law which the way I see it written requires retailers / Whirlpool to act. That law should surely therefore be used for its intended purpose. Which? has legal expertise and I would like their view.

In the USA, who seem prepared to take this sort of incident more seriously, “A Settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit against Whirlpool Corporation (“Whirlpool”), Sears Holdings Corporation (“Sears Holdings”), and Sears, Roebuck and Company (“Sears”) (together, the “Defendants”) regarding certain dishwashers manufactured between October 2000 and January 2006. Whirlpool has also agreed to provide additional benefits to owners of certain dishwashers— manufactured between 1995 and 2010—that observed or experienced smoke, flames, fumes, sparks, or electrical arcing from the control console area/electronic control board of their dishwasher (an “Overheating Event”).
If you are included in the Settlement, you may qualify for a variety of benefits including a rebate on the purchase of a new dishwasher, and reimbursement for expenses incurred due to past or future dishwasher overheating events.”

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Their net profit appears to be around 4%, looking at their published figures. Not unreasonable.

Malcolm Smith says:
27 May 2016

Motley says: Registered our Hotpoint tumble dryer for repair in November 2015. Initially was told that it would take up to 3 months for repair. In May 2016 communication from Whirpool stating that repair would take place in November 2016 but we could have a new one delivered and fitted at a cost of £59. As our dryer was 6 years old we opted to change out for a new model. Delivery will be two weeks from date of order. Old machine will be taken away.

Hello, I’ve been in touch with the British Standards Institute to ask them to answer your questions. They have responded with the following information. I hope it’s helpful:

1. Washing Machines – shattering glass doors. What does the BS EN say about the type of glass and tests to demonstrate the safety of the glass?

Standard 60335-2-7 clause 7.12
20.1 Modification: The appliance is empty or filled as specified for normal operation, whichever is more unfavourable. Doors and lids are closed and any castors turned to the most unfavourable position.

20.102 Appliances shall not be adversely affected by an unbalanced load.
Compliance is checked by the following test. The appliance is placed on a horizontal support and a load having a mass of 0,2 kg or 10 % of the maximum mass of the cloth specified in the instructions, whichever is greater, is fixed to the inside wall of the drum half-way along its length. The appliance is supplied at rated voltage and operated during the water extraction period. The test is carried out four times, the load being moved each time through an angle of 90° around the wall of the drum. The appliance shall not overturn and the drum shall not hit other parts except the enclosure. After the test, the appliance shall be fit for further use.

20.101 For appliances of the drum type, the drum drive motor shall be de-energized before the opening of the lid or door exceeds 50 mm. If a removable or sliding lid is provided, the motor shall be de-energized as soon as the lid is removed or displaced and it shall not be possible to start the motor unless the lid is in the closed position. Compliance is checked by measurement and inspection.

20.103 For appliances of the drum type, it shall only be possible to energize the drum drive motor when the lid or door is in the closed position. Compliance is checked by inspection and by manual test using test probe B of IEC 61032 in an attempt to override the locking function.

20.104 It shall not be possible to open the lid or door of an appliance while the drum speed exceeds 60 r/min. Compliance is checked by the following test. The appliance is supplied at rated voltage and operated empty or filled as specified for normal operation, whichever is more unfavourable. The force determined during the test of 22.104 with the lid or door locked is applied to the lid or door in an attempt to open it. It shall not be possible to open the lid or door while the drum speed exceeds 60 r/min.

20 Stability and mechanical hazards
This clause of Part 1 is applicable except as follows.
20.1 Modification: The appliance is empty or filled as specified for normal operation, whichever is more unfavourable. Doors and lids are closed and any castors turned to the most unfavourable position.
20.101 For appliances of the drum type, the drum drive motor shall be de-energized before the opening of the lid or door exceeds 50 mm. If a removable or sliding lid is provided, the motor shall be de-energized as soon as the lid is removed or displaced and it shall not be possible to start the motor unless the lid is in the closed position. Compliance is checked by measurement and inspection.

20.102 Appliances shall not be adversely affected by an unbalanced load.
Compliance is checked by the following test. The appliance is placed on a horizontal support and a load having a mass of 0,2 kg or 10 % of the maximum mass of the cloth specified in the instructions, whichever is greater, is fixed to the inside wall of the drum half-way along its length. The appliance is supplied at rated voltage and operated during the water extraction period. The test is carried out four times, the load being moved each time through an angle of 90° around the wall of the drum. The appliance shall not overturn and the drum shall not hit other parts except the enclosure. After the test, the appliance shall be fit for further use.

20.103 For appliances of the drum type, it shall only be possible to energize the drum drive motor when the lid or door is in the closed position. Compliance is checked by inspection and by manual test using test probe B of IEC 61032 in an attempt to override the locking function.

20.104 It shall not be possible to open the lid or door of an appliance while the drum speed exceeds 60 r/min. Compliance is checked by the following test. The appliance is supplied at rated voltage and operated empty or filled as specified for normal operation, whichever is more unfavourable. The force determined during the test of 22.104 with the lid or door locked is applied to the lid or door in an attempt to open it. It shall not be possible to open the lid or door while the drum speed exceeds 60 r/min.

21 Mechanical strength

This clause of Part 1 is applicable except as follows.
21.101 Lids and doors shall have adequate mechanical strength.
Compliance is checked by the test of 21.101.1 for lids and 21.101.2 for doors. 21.101.1 A rubber hemisphere having a diameter of 70 mm and a hardness between 40 IRHD and 50 IRHD is fixed to a cylinder having a mass of 20 kg and dropped from a height of 100 mm onto the centre of the lid.
The test is carried out three times, after which the lid shall not be damaged to such an extent that moving parts become accessible.

21.101.2 A vertically downwards force of 150 N is applied in the most unfavourable position to the door while it is open at an angle of 90° ± 5°. The force is maintained for 1 min.
After the test, the appliance shall not be damaged or deformed to such an extent that compliance with 20.103 and 20.104 is impaired.

21.102 Lids shall have adequate resistance to distortion.
} ~
Compliance is checked by the following test.
A force of 50 N is applied to the open lid in the most unfavourable direction and position.
The test is carried out three times, after which the hinges shall not have worked loose and the appliance shall not be damaged or deformed to such an extent that compliance with 20.10 3 and 20.104 is impaired. } ~

22 Construction
This clause of Part 1 is applicable except as follows.
22.6 Modification to the requirement:
The requirement relating to leakage from containers, hoses, couplings and similar parts of the appliance is not applicable to parts that withstand the ageing test specified in Annex BB.

2. Tumble Driers: Whirlpool safety: what does the BS EN say about the precautions to avoid fluff getting onto hot parts and possibly causing a fire?

Standard 60335-2-7 clauses 20,21 & 22
The instructions for use shall state – the maximum mass of dry textile material in kilograms to be used in the appliance; – that the tumble dryer is not to be used if industrial chemicals have been used for cleaning; – that the lint trap has to be cleaned frequently, if applicable; – that lint must not to be allowed to accumulate around the tumble dryer (not applicable for appliances intended to be vented to the exterior of the building); – that adequate ventilation has to be provided to avoid the back flow of gases into the room from appliances burning other fuels, including open fires.

Thanks Patrick. Washing machines – nothing here about glass in doors nor testing. Maybe it appears in another standard? Were BSI asked specifically about glass doors?
Tumble driers – the clause quoted deals with instruction for use. I would expect a relevant standard to include safety provisions in the appliance construction. Were BSI specifically asked about this?

Hi Malcolm, yes I shared your specific questions with them. I’ll show them your response 🙂

Thanks Patrick. It is just that they did not seem to address the specific issues raised – no mention of glass doors nor fluff reaching hot places. I wonder whether this is covered in other parts of the standard.

I understand. The questions I pasted here are the ones I sent, including a mention of glass doors and fluff reaching hot places. Let’s see how they respond to your requests for further info.

Lint and tumble driers:
BS EN 60335-2-11 2013 – particular requirements for tumble driers – Section 30 “Resistance to heat and fire”. This says that non-metallic materials in close proximity to heating elements and on which lint could accumulate shall be resistant to spread of fire. This requirement also applies to parts on which burning lint could fall. A needle flame test on the relevant parts is used to test for compliance.

So in the event of lint burning the machine should contain the fire without it spreading.
This requirement appeared in the 2006 standard also.

So the intent to provide a safe appliance is there. One question is did the Indesit appliances meet this requirement? There does seem to have been a design issue with the Indesit appliance that was exposed by Whirlpool when they bought the company (all the appliances in question were, I believe, made by Indesit) . It may be then that we are criticising Whirlpool unfairly if they have acted to reveal this problem and are then faced with such a huge remedial programme in terms of numbers?

Suggestions as to how the volume of work could be done more quickly might be useful, or whether replacement driers is the better answer.

On the basis that there have been fires, either the machines do not meet the standard or the standard is inadequate, possibly both. Standards are of course minimum requirements and by examining the construction of products it is not difficult to see examples of safer designs.

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The question I have asked is to check whether machines met the standards. It seems on the face of it that if lint does catch fire but then goes on to ignite parts of the machine itself then some failure to comply with the standard might be indicated. However Which? should be able to find an answer to this perhaps by getting hold of a defective machine and getting BSI to do the necessary tests. It would be interesting.

You are right about minimum standards. That is what safety standards are. Other driers seem to have been OK for fire so it may be the standard is adequate.

Glass doors – I can find no specific reference to these but they would be covered by the impact test specified in BS EN 60335-1-2014. If the incidence of breakage were shown to be a significant risk then no doubt the standard should include some kind of test for internal abrasion etc. The standard will not normally preclude rare events unless they were the precursor to a wider problem. Adding a flat plastic outer window, which reduces the temperature of touchable parts, would also contain glass fragments if it should break, but not when they fall into the drum. Adding a bonded film onto the glass external surface, such as can be done on glass in food preparation areas for example, should hold the fragments together. It is a risk assessment problem.

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Duncan – You mention the risks associated with plastics, which is something that has concerned me for years. I believe there are standards for self-extinguishing plastics but as you say, all plastics will burn if the temperature is high enough and many will give off toxic fumes, as every firefighter knows.

While there have been some worthwhile improvements in the safety of household goods, I can see some examples of products that seem to be less safe than their predecessors. Many kettles are now largely made of plastic rather than metal. In the 60s, it was normal for the power socket to be ejected if kettle was turned on without water. Nowadays the normal means of overheat protection is a thermal switch which will self-reset. If the contacts of the switch weld then the heater will remain on in a plastic container.

Unless someone knows otherwise, heat pump tumble dryers seem a much safer option

The test for flammability is the widely-used IEC needle flame test. A concentrated gas flame is applied for 30 seconds and the component should be both self extinguishing when the flame is removed and not have dropped particles of burning plastic.

This is sufficient to test for the spread of fire on plastics. It tests that appropriate plastics (and any other potentially flammable materials) have been used.The objective seems to be that if lint should start to burn the material used within the drier should nor support combustion and therefore the fire should be contained within the source area.

One thing i have been told is that a fire hazard can arise if a tumble drier is switched off before the drying cycle is complete; the latter part of the cycle has a cooling process. Apparently insufficiently-cooled clothes left in a mass can self ignite. Looking at one or two of the pictures, where it looks as though the fire might have been in the drum, maybe this was a possible cause? I believe the latest standard may require that the drier cannot be turned off until the clothes temperature is 55 deg. However, you cannot stop someone turning the power off at the wall before the cycle has finished!

I think the Australian(?) requirement that safety instructions should be permanently printed on the outside (door / surround) was an excellent one.

The danger of interrupting the drying cycle when the heater is on has been mentioned here and elsewhere. My understanding is that the radiated heat from the heater can set light to lint and other flammable materials, which could include the clothing in the drum. I expect that most users will have opened the door to check whether their clothes have dried and there is always the possibility of a power cut. A decent standard should take into account these risks.

I would really like to know if there are any examples of heat pump tumble dryers catching fire. They don’t have heaters operating at high temperatures near to flammable materials so should be an inherently safe design.

I was told that it is the clothes themselves that can spontaneously combust, no assistance from the drier (other than it got them hot in the first place before the user ignored the instructions). I would imagine, however, it is pretty rare. Hard to see how you could protect against it, unless you have it plumbed in and have a heat-activated sprinkler.

Just as rare, no doubt, is putting in clothes still impregnated with flammable residues, such as solvents; I am told this is more prevalent now we are encouraged to use cool washers to save the environment – but it has a potential (but rare) consequence as they are less effective at removed all traces of iffy materials.

We know some people refuse to pay proper money for a household appliance so I doubt heat-pump driers will answer the problem. Most driers work perfectly safely; it will be interesting to find out, if we ever will, quite why the potential fault is prevalent in these Indesit models and whether they passed the BSEN test.

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Malcolm – The obvious way of avoiding the problem is to avoid high temperature heaters, not just because of the fire risk but the damage to fabrics. In the same way that food should be safe irrespective of the price we pay, even cheap tumble dryers need to be safe. If cheap products are not safe then they must not be sold.

There may be standard tests but as Duncan intimates, there may be better and more appropriate alternatives.

The flame test is long established as an approriate “scientific” test under controlled conditions to determine what will happen for particular circumstances. It is designed, as I said, to ensure that flame does not spread and self-extinguishes in a set time. So the materials used in the construction must be suitable to pass this test. These tests are devised by practical people with experience of abnormal conditions likely to arise and have served us well. There are other tests available – the hot wire test is one – depending upon the particular circumstance to be tested. Here the point is the effect of burning lint in possibly igniting the local constructional materials.

The Standard has a whole range of tests relating to temperature in normal and abnormal operation. The appliance shall be constructed so as a result of abnormal or careless operation the risk of fire is obviated as far as is practicable. For example in abnormal operation an appliance heating element is operated at 1.24 x rated power input, or the motor rotor locked.

Thermal safety tests are carefully devised (“scientifically”) to test the different problems that might arise, both in normal and in abnormal use. One type of test might be appropriate for one possible occurrence, but not for another. There is, for example, not just one flammability test but a number, used severally depending upon the particular safety feature being investigated.

Standards are developed by experienced, practical and dedicated people who are thoroughly familiar with the products involved and their likely usage. No product should be sold in Europe that does not meet the appropriate safety standard, whether cheap or not. So “not safe, not sold” is the law; you cannot legislate for lawbreakers of course.

The tests used are sensible and appropriate; my knowledge from working in the testing and standards environment assures me of both the integrity of the system and its effectiveness. What it cannot do is foresee every eventuality, particularly as technology rapidly changes, but it does react to change in a considered, not knee-jerk, way. Nor can it make products idiot proof. Just anticipate as far as possible what an idiot might do.

Anyone with a properly-substantiated idea is free to contact the relevant BSI committee when no doubt due consideration will be given to its validity. However I defer to experts when it comes to Standards. they have served us well, and will continue to do so.

I wonder if the standards take account of the fact that many people use fabric conditioners, which will remain on fabrics and according to a site that Duncan mentioned can be present in the lint, helping it to adhere to the inside of ducting. Having some knowledge of the chemical composition of fabric conditioners I would expect this to contribute to the flammability of lint.

As I have said many times, I cannot understand why plastic is used in products containing powerful heaters. I have examined my old washing machine and there is not much plastic in evidence. I would love to be able to buy appliances with no more plastic than absolutely necessary.

Thanks Patrick. The standard for washing machine doors appears to take no account for the fact that the glass will gradually be weakened by abrasion caused by impact with zip fasteners etc. and possibly the occasional coin that could have been left in a pocket.

In the same way that kettles have overheating cutouts in case they are switched on when empty, tumble dryers need to have protection in case the user fails to clean the lint filter. I’ve suggested an interlock to prevent operation until the filter has been serviced, but there are various other possibilities including using a flame trap. I suspect that the best option could be to phase out conventional tumble dryers in favour of heat pump dryers with no high temperature heater to cause a fire risk.

Those compiling and modifying standards need to plan for the worst case scenario.

Safety standards cover sensible fault conditions but it would be silly to cover extreme worst cases – such as drying clothes that have solvent in them. Just like any other risk assessment, a realistic approach is used. I’d like to know in the case of tumble driers whether the safety standard considers the possibility of fluff reaching the heater and, if so, how it is dealt with.

I hope you are not suggesting that I am not realistic, Malcolm. 🙁 I’ve seen the relevant standard and I was not impressed. I have posted about some information earlier.

wc – I’ve just had a quick look at some parts of these standards, as are available on the ‘net.

I expect the parent IEC Standards are expected to represent industry (and regulatory) consensus of good practice, much as ISO Standards do.

Hence any such good practices would include worthwhile safety features, e.g. where the extra costs of any safety feature are agreed to be worthwhile in terms of the resulting safety benefit .

I noted that the NZ and Australian standards organisations were not content to leave instructions about the need for any regular cleaning of filters “buried in the owners manuals” and thus modified their local versions to require that any such instructions were also printed on the appliances (in full sight of users). I didn’t find any mention of interlocks though – that might be a harder topic to reach consensus on.

@derekp – I don’t recall any reference to interlocks or any other devices to protect the user if they fail to follow the instructions and clean the filter, other than normal overheating cutouts. I don’t believe the fire risk of using a tumble dryer are new. I installed a Zanussi tumble dryer for my mother in the early 70s, when I was a student and explained the need to clean the filter regularly. I recall reprimanding her for not doing this, explaining the fire risk, and after that she did it methodically. Her first front-loading washing machine, bought at the same time, had an interlock to prevent the door being opened until the cycle had ended. Let’s have interlocks and cut the risk of fires in the home.

It appears that Peterborough Trading Standards are behind an “informal” (unofficial) agreement with Whirlpool as to how they deal with remedies, and such a local organisation can be regarded as competent to consider it a national arrangement. They are monitoring the arrangement “weekly”.

I am waiting to hear whether the Sale of Goods Act, that requires, I believe, that affected customers receive remedy without unreasonable inconvenience. could be invoked.

In one way I sympathise with Whirpool’s predicament in that these are machines manufactured by a company – Indesit – that they took over and presumably did not realise the baggage that came with it was a bit “toxic”. It seems Whirlpool did instigate action when they found Indesit’s problem. How can you repair so many machines in a sensible timescale with the repair resources available, or could you replace so many machines quickly, in practice? However Whirlpool are a huge organisation and presumably thought they would benefit financially from the takeover; so they should step up to the plate as well when they find all is not as good as it seemed.

Unless they sell Indesit on to a racing driver for £1 perhaps – or a well-known superyacht owner perhaps?

Chris Mahony says:
16 June 2016

Hotpoint dryer replaced in pretty short order at 59 pounds but a repair date was way in the distance. Seems replacement is more preferential than repair to Hotpoint at the customer’s expense which is why they are offering replacement. Where are the old dryers going – second hand market??

On a second but important point, we have four Hotpoint appliances in the kitchen – inside two years the fridge has needed a repair and the inside of the washing machine is falling apart. The answer from Hotpoint is a extended warranty from Domestic and General at a price that will cover the cost of new washing machine inside a year! As a consumer, which ever way you turn you are fleeced these days – in this case by the almost monopoly supplier of cheap white goods like Hotpoint, Whirlpool and Indesit – as such it is the poorer people in our society who are left with dangerous and broken white goods in their homes.

So “Which” – who is taking the makers on as the champion of the consumer – dangerous, broken and shoddy goods are continuing to be sold everyday into Britain’s homes and in some cases bursting into flames as described on this forum.

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This has been a common plea from members pretty much since the start of Conversations. Durability of goods is important but not covered by Which? when it commissions tests.

Members can post at the Members forum, and more usefully probably on the customer reviews of machines they currently own. These reviews can be seen by anyone though the posting has to be by a subscriber to Which?

The famous German consumer testing body Stiftung Warentest has a budget of around £36m AFAIR but they do test to destruction – well six months non-stop for washing machines which equates to around 9 years normal use.

As one who fills in surveys for Which? I have complained for years that they do not ask how much usage you make of the equipment they are querying which I think can badly skew the validity of reliability results. It is important that readers do post anyhting on machines they own to the review sections – and not just after the first week of use but say a year later.

Eventually this gets results witness this triumph for readers:
” Not reliable
Due to a significant number of complaints about poor reliability from owners of this steamer, in addition to research we’ve carried out which suggests that it has an extremely high failure rate, we’ve taken the decision to remove Best Buy status from this steamer.

We surveyed Which? members who own or have owned this steamer, and found that 92% of the steamers owned by the survey respondents had developed a problem that was serious enough to cause them to return it or throw it away. 65% of those problems developed within 12 months of purchase, and 84% developed within 18 months of purchase.

We don’t think this steamer is reliable enough to be a Best Buy, so if you’re interested in buying it, be aware that it’s not likely to last a long time.”
which.co.uk/reviews/steamers/logik-l90sss11

Chris, a decent durable machine will inevitably cost more. Cheap machines are cheap for a reason – they will contain cheap components and are unlikely to last. However, the way to assess cheapness is not the initial cost, but how much it costs a year. So if you buy a £200 appliance that lasts 2 years, is that cheaper than a £300 one that lasts 5 years? Even if it means taking out a loan you’ll be better off.

But will it last 2 years or 5 years? We consumers are entitled to be sold products that are honestly made – not toys – and that are durable with normal use and without abuse. The length of time that a product should last must depend upon its cost, because that will determine the quality of components for example. The Consumer Rights Act does require, legally, that products should be durable taking account of the price. What we need is a consumers association to stand up for this basic right and to take action against retailers who do not provide rerasonably durable products.

I know some argue we should have longer manufacturers’ guarantees, which indeed we would like and may one day happen. But, in the meantime, I think Which? should be campaigning to enforce “durability” as a fundamental protection. This is what will protect all consumers, poor or not, from being sold rubbish disguised in a white box.

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Even quality brands seem to make mistakes as this highlights. However it is rare …. though one would like to know if that means 1 in 100 rare or 1 in a million rare. I was going to post this on the review of Cordless but Stihl are not one of the tested.

STIHL HSA 65 & HSA 85 Cordless Hedge Trimmers
Brand: STIHL
Model number: HSA 65 & HSA 85
Recall date(s): 16/06/2016
Description: STIHL HSA 65 and HSA 85 cordless lithium-ion battery powered hedge trimmers
Risk: Risk of injury due to malfunction. In rare instances the trimmers may start operating when only one switch is pressed, or continue to operate when the switches are released.would

Don’t forget that Bosch did a recall on over 0.6 million dishwashers several years ago because there had been fires. That’s in the UK alone. Apple recalled a considerable number of laptop batteries made by Sony because of severe overheating.

It is inevitable that occasionally a product will be released with a design fault or a defect that is not revealed until it is in service. The main requirements in my view are that a decent (quality) manufacturer will have robust processes in place to test designs and ensure quality consistency before release, but that should something unforeseen get onto the market it is dealt with quickly and efficiently with minimal inconvenience to the customer.

I hope so, but the current system of notifying owners of faults is unsatisfactory. Owners are expected to register their products with the manufacturer and it is well known that this is used to collect information for marketing purposes. Many people own secondhand products and will not be notified if there is a problem. For example, I have inherited built-in Bosch appliances when I bought a house – including a dishwasher of the right age to be one of those at risk of going on fire. I have already suggested taking the registration of products out of the hands of the manufacturers and letting people register their products, new or secondhand.

The registration of products could be done by the seller at the time of purchase, with only essential details permitted to allow future contact (unless the purchaser decides otherwise). The seller would then pass this information on to whoever is given the obligation to inform customers of any problems. Built in appliance, like most others, would be at the address where they were purchased so notification by post would be the default way of communicating.

The sale of products – the secondhand market – and moving the product to a different address would require action on the part of the owner. I do not see how any system can automatically deal with that. However it could be facilitated by having a permanent label giving instructions who to notify of the change.

For those who want to register their electrical appliances currently AMDEA run a scheme “register my appliance” to make it easy for customers.

@mstevens, Matt, have Which? thought to test one of these defective driers in one of your labs to see if it passes the requirements of BS EN 60335-2-11 2013 – particular requirements for tumble driers – Section 30 “Resistance to heat and fire”. Presumably a member with one of these driers might sell it to you for test purposes? Or perhaps you could exchange it for a recently-tested decent drier?

I was told on the 28th April 2016 that I would get an engineer call within six weeks. Nearly eight weeks later no call, so I chased up the modification on my tumble dryer today. When I explained that the six weeks had passed I was told that I was “misinformed” and that my job had not even be passed on to be actioned. The customer service operator then swiftly informed me that I had the option to pay £59 and have a new machine delivered. I questioned the charge because this was a dangerous design fault and did I not have the right to a free replacement if the manufacturer could not fix my machine within a reasonable time and without considerable inconvenience? (Sale of Goods Act). Their argument, which I’m not happy with, is that this does not apply because this is a modification not a recall. Where do I go from here?

Jayne – I don’t own a tumble dryer, but in your position I would send a recorded delivery to the company stating that I require the machine to be fixed within a month of the date on my letter and that if they fail to comply I would find an engineer who was prepared to tackle the job, and that I would be seeking reimbursement for the work. Before doing so, I would check that an engineer would be prepared to do this work in case parts are not available. If the company failed to pay up I would send the story to the press.

I have asked Which? to get their lawyers to comment on this approach, but no joy.

Perhaps you could mention that the problem is listed as a ‘recall’ on the Electrical Safety First website: http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/2016/03/hotpoint,-indesit,-creda,-swan-and-proline-tumble-dryers/

Best of luck.

Jayne, I believe you are correct in your argument. The Sale of Goods Act says that an unsafe product should be remedied without unreasonable inconvenience. I believe these machines are unsafe because they can catch fire and you advised not to leave them unattended.

Peterborough Trading Standards seem to have made an unofficial (national) agreement with Whirlpool as to how they should deal with this problem, and it appears they have agreed to the repair for many affected appliances. I don’t know how Whirlpool decide when to offer a new machine for a price. I have asked Peterborough to explain why, when machines are potentially unsafe, they are not all being dealt with either by a repair, replacement or refund without causing unreasonable inconvenience (which they currently are). I have to do this through CAB, unfortunately and their initial reply did not answer the question. I’m trying again but if that proves unsatisfactory I have a Plan B.

The offer you have been mane may be worthwhile if you have an older machine and the replacement gets a reasonable report – such as from Which?. Normally any refund would take account of how much use you have had. If it was a newish machine then it is not a sensible option to take in my view.

Jayne, Which? have issued guidelines for those affected on their Consumer Rights website: (which.co.uk/consumer-rights/l/product-recall). Follow the link to Whirlpool. Their basic advice seems to be:
“Due to the scale of the recall we believe you’ll be best served by pursuing your claim with Whirlpool rather than being pushed from pillar to post between manufacturer and retailer. Replacement or repair? Many feel stuck between a rock and hard place when deciding which option to choose. Don’t accept an inferior replacement, either haggle for a better machine or wait for a repair. Keep chasing If you opt for a repair, keep calling to chase your customer ID and to get a confirmed repair date as soon as possible– don’t let Whirlpool off the hook.”

I would suggest you should be very wary of having any modification done without Whirlpool’s approval. It may not be correctly done, even assuming the parts and procedure are available to a repairer not involved in the repair scheme, and it may well invalidate any household insurance should the machine catch fire in the future. I’d look hard at the replacement offer; I believe both £59 and £99 offers are available. If your machine is a few years old it may be worth demanding the better machine if Which? give it a reasonable rating.

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The arrangement with Whirlpool, as I reported earlier, seems to have been “informally” agreed with Peterborough Trading Standards. I am trying to find out why SoGA is not being used. Assuming insufficient resources are available to repair the machines quickly enough the alternatives might be to replace machines, or to give a refund (SoGA would probably mean this would be based on the age of the machine) so customers can get a safe tumble drier as quickly as possible.

Could it be that Peterborough Trading Standards’ extra-statutory agreement has effectively displaced the retailers as the responsible parties for action under SoGA or CRA? Owners presumably still have their statutory rights against the retailers who might be more amenable to a replacement by another manufacturer’s appliance or a cash refund.

A tricky phrase in all this is “without unreasonable inconvenience”, in the context of providing a remedy under the Consumer Rights Act. I could well imagine a court taking the view that a company trying to deal with ten machines should do it within a week or so but that a company with hundreds of thousands of appliances to mend needs a lot more time because the technical infrastructure is not there to enable it. It’s a similar situation to the Volkswagen problem whereby, aided and abetted by the industry, we have become too reliant on pieces of equipment that by virtue of their sheer volume cannot be fixed in a hurry.

I think Peterborough TS [who presumably are the lead authority for dealing with Whirlpool on behalf of local authorities throughout the UK] should seek to get the offer of a cash refund for the owner of any machine that cannot be repaired or replaced by the company within forty days from now [subject to evidence of safe disposal and destruction of the defective appliance].

This whole episode makes you wonder what checks Whirlpool made before they bought Indesit etc and took on their liabilities, but customers are possibly better off dealing with Whirlpool than they would have been with Indesit, and far better off than if Indesit had collapsed completely with no redress available. All the consumer protection on the statute books will not help if a company is no longer in existence.

Duncan, with which countries are you comparing the UK when you say that it is “devaluing its citizens much lower than other countries“? There have been plenty of reports on this Conversation that UK customers have not had to go through hoops to get service from Whirlpool. They have been processing claims in a reasonably efficient way and there have been quite a number of complimentary comments from satisfied customers. The problem is mainly that the sheer scale of the logistical exercise required is too much for even a big US company like Whirlpool. It might have been better if they had come clean about this a bit sooner but I expect they took the view at the time that that would have only added more pressure and that they would try to ride it out. A misjudgment in my view, but a typical attitude from major manufacturers anywhere in the world and not one susceptible to government influence.

In the UK we do have the Consumer Rights Act that came into force last year. As Malcolm says here, the question in this case is why it is not being applied to this problem.

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Thank you, Duncan. I must admit that I hadn’t realised that other industrialised countries were significantly different from the UK in these respects and were not generally inferior due to our long history of Trade Unions in representation of workers, achievement of better working conditions, and protection of workers interests [and I say that sincerely without any sense of irony].

I certainly agree that Consumer Protection has been demoted by the current government without even an exclusive ministerial portfolio allocated to it, and the run down of Trading Standards has been very detrimental for consumers who now cannot approach a dedicated and professional service directly with their claims and allegations about substandard products and services. I am convinced that making everybody go through Citizens Advice was deliberately intended in order to restrain service demand. It also means that Trading Standards departments have been an easy touch for Council budget cuts and reduced officer resources. In our part of the country Citizens Advice rely very heavily on unpaid volunteers to operate the bureaux and assist people with their legal and consumer problems; that the same organisation has been impacted by the need to act as a gatekeeper for Trading Standards offends me. I have no idea how competent the response is from CA when somebody calls them with a sale of goods, or product defect, or service default, or rogue trader problem, and it would be interesting if this were put to the test one day. So far as I am aware, zero-hours contracts are not the progeny of the present or the previous government and it appalls me that the TUC and the major unions appear to have been completely spineless in tackling it as it has taken us right back to the days when workers had to queue up every morning at the gates to see if they could be hired for the day; at least in those days there was the Docks Labour Scheme and the labour exchanges that exercised a moderating influence over the practices whereas now there is no redress.

John, I am at present looking at a problem that concerns Trading Standards. I contacted the TS concerned by email and received an automated reply that they do not deal with the public and to contact Citizens Advice. I could not find an email contact initially so tried national trading standards only to get the same response. Dug around the CAB site, found an email and asked them to pass my enquiry to the relevant TS. They sent me a reply that did not answer the questions I was asking. I pointed that out and they gave me the email address of TS to contact – which of course told me to use CAB. I pointed this out to CAB (different person each time of course). So a straightforward question I would like answered – or a refusal to answer – has so far taken 9 days to get absolutely nowhere. A waste of my time and CABs so far.

I am however not giving up. 🙂

Malcolm, I am not surprised. I am glad you are not giving up but understandably many would. I wish Which? could use its influence in government circles to bring pressure to bear.

I hope it is not out of order today to remark that many of the “impositions” that businesses complain about as trading standards requirements emanating from the EU were planted there by the UK and it is unlikely that they will be torn up and thrown on the bonfire if we quit. Despite the adverse comparisons from some our more “international” correspondents, the UK has for generations led the world in the crafting and dissemination of consumer protection regulations and if it were a competitive event at Rio de janeiro or a Nobel laureate the UK would come back with a chestful of medals. But now that we have got this supposedly comprehensive umbrella of safeguards we are at risk of losing the benefits through the lack of effective application and enforcement.

It’s alright . . . I’m going out in a minute.

We contacted indesit in January and were told it was OK to use as long as we removed the lint before each use and would be contacted after 8 weeks(March )….I contacted them at the beginning of June(they forgot and were sorry) and have ordered me a modification in August, still stating it’s OK to use as long we clean the lint out of the filter….2 months to go!!!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36562398

I don’t know why our government does not intervene.

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I’d like to know what “intervention” from the Government might achieve. I’ve posted some ways that Whirlpool might act but the plain fact seems to be a lack of “engineers” (no one in the government can fix that easily) and probably a lack of replacement dryers if all affected were made that offer.

They have given Trading Standards the task of dealing with it. I am trying to discover why TS seem to have reached an informal agreement that does not appear to favour the consumer. It may simply be a practical one – that the resources are just not available to do any better. If that is the case then I think affected customers should be offered compensation for their inconvenience whilst waiting for a repair – £x a week. Might help speed things up.

It is no secret that the government has downgraded trading standards and consumer protection as public services, and collectively [including Which?] we are silently acquiescing. By the end of this Parliament we shall all have forgotten that we ever had such resources. Are there any consumer programmes on TV now? Is it a regular topic in the media? Are retailers stepping up to fill the void? Did we vote for unbridled capitalism?

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One way Which? can address the void is to report on the TV and radio and newspaper programmes and provide links and comments.

It could also straight list all the recalls and make them searchable by sector and maker. I get the electrical recalls sent to me and there are normally a couple or more a week. Given boot-sales and rented properties electrical recalls are of significant interest.

These two suggestions require minimal manpower and extremely low cost but would be immensely useful to subscribers.

As I have mentioned before if the BBC skewer Kwik-Fit several times for dodgy then in a years time I may want to know which firm is going to the bottom of the list to buy-from. I am sure there are tens of thousands who vaguely recall the nitrogen gas investigation but would be pushed to know who was involved.

Recording Judgements against firms like pharmacy2u for selling customer details, and similar companies told off by the ASA, and indeed Which? putting BrainSmartMemory to the ASA, are all database material.

Which? could be the go to place for any consumer relevant information not supplied by CItizens Advice.

Consumer protection has never been a significant political issue, as far as I can recall. If a household appliance has been identified as a potential fire hazard I’m sure that there would be widespread public support for prompt action. Maybe if a child is killed in a house fire it might raise public awareness, but I sincerely hope this does not happen.

In view of the delays I feel that it would be appropriate for the government to intervene and decide what action is realistically possible. That might involve giving owners a refund so that they can buy a new tumble dryer, not necessarily one made by a member of the Whirlpool group of companies.

It is also time to push for safer tumble dryers. We have had interlocks on the doors of washing machines for as long as I can remember, yet there is nothing to prevent continued use of dryers without servicing the filter, and machines can be stopped mid-cycle, which is another fire risk. I believe that switching to heat pump tumble dryers would be worthwhile because there is no high temperature heater that could set lint or fabrics alight.

Hi, thanks for sharing that link wavechange.

Just on the mention of Which? being on TV, radio and in newspapers about this, I thought you might be interested in this. Our story on Whirlpool dryers had very wide coverage. Here’s a run down of where we appeared:

ITV This Morning – Headline slot with our Head of Campaigns Pete Moorey alongside Alice Beer to discuss the issue surrounding Whirlpool and their dryers.
4 Nationals – Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, The Sun and Metro
BBC News – Simon Gompertz reporting on Whirlpool’s dryers with our findings referenced online
10 + Online’s inc Guardian, Mirror, The Sun, Express, ITV, Yahoo!
BBC GNS – 11 interviews – most notable being BBC 5 Live
BBC East Midlands TV – Pete did a pre-record interview that will feature in tonight’s regional news
And… social media: As a result of our appearance on This Morning, as well as our investigation, there has been huge engagement with those affected by this issue

Here are some images of the coverage and some links:

BBC – http://bbc.in/1XnIDHj
Guardian – http://bit.ly/1U3vFMt
BT – http://bit.ly/23ZCNwb
Express – http://bit.ly/1sFugmJ
The Sun – http://bit.ly/1TufQiY
Mirror – http://bit.ly/1Rd4o5C
ITV – http://bit.ly/22i2aKn
Yahoo! – http://yhoo.it/1U4y5HC

Thanks for that little lot, Patrick. I’ve been avoiding the news today because of the EU referendum and every available politician will be telling porkies. It does not surprise me to learn that the company is adding people to their marketing list.

And for those not serviced by the national newspaper Metro :
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_(British_newspaper)

I agree with you Wavechange that “consumer protection has never been a significant political issue”. It didn’t need to be because there was a satisfactory service across the country with direct public access to professionals and with local authorities that safeguarded their trading standards and consumer protection services. The needs have not diminished – if anything they have grown, but the resources have been quietly cut away because it is not a high-profile function and does not arouse passions like cuts to fire services or public libraries do. It seems to me it has to be raised as a political issue as the only alternative for consumers will be litigation that is generally unaffordable.

When the current Eurofuss has died down I shall be writing to the appropriate portfolio holder at the county council to find out more about the current situation and what their service expectations now are. My MP is the Environment Secretary so I am not optimistic of much support from her [she was last seen on TV’s HIGNFY cradling a piglet which is possibly a new low in political tokenism].

If any of the 1 million Which? members are registered online, and if they care enough to try to get more recognition of the rights of consumers, then log in, go to “my account”, click on “view account”, click on “Which” member community” then click on “Which? member community” again. You can now post on the members’ discussion. Have your say – because lobbying is the only way to get things done. If you remain a silent majority you’ll get walked over by the noisy minority.

Saying so very publicly here on Which? Convo is read just as much and we are doing all we can to feed these comments and case studies into our work. The massive coverage for our Whirlpool story is just the start, but I know there’s more we can do. The comments shared here are key to moving this forward.

I have an 83yr old Mother who has one of these -a Hotpoint model. They were notified in November 2015. She was offered and paid for the £99 replacement model but Hotpoint are apparently unable to deliver to the Isle of Man and refunded her the money. She is now due have her’s modified in May 2017. This is clearly unacceptable. Strangely enough there are supplies of Driers in our shops in the Isle of Man and I could order one online now from John Lewis to be delivered here. It is impossible to get beyond the first line customer “service” to find someone at Hotpoint with the ability to change their policy of using a carrier who won’t deliver to the Isle of Man or to make an exception and get a different carrier. The only way to get anything done seems to be to embarrass them using a consumer organisation or TV program. Trying to find out the contact details of people higher up in organisations who have the power to make exceptions or change policies is very difficult . Managers are always in meetings and their underlings will not give out names or phone numbers.

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I recall that we had Jo Swinson from the previous coalition government present a few Convos. Can someone remind me who is responsible for consumer affairs in their portfolio of other duties? It would be good to have some input that demonstrates that the government is there to support its citizens, and the tumble dryer problem might provide an appropriate topic.

It is a question I have been looking to answer for some time. Under the Dept. of Business Innovation and Skills (Sajid David) an under parliamentary secretary of state has supposedly the following remit:

” The minister’s responsibilities include:

Post Office and postal policy
employment relations including Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)
consumer policy and consumer affairs
competition policy
corporate governance
company law
social enterprise
Insolvency Service, including company investigations
BIS better regulation and efficiency and reform agenda”

However I cannot find anyone listed as fulfilling this role. Ministers who have had their name attached to some consumer affairs press releases were Barioness Neville-Rolfe and more lately Anna Soubry.

Doesn’t seem very high profile.

Perhaps Which? could put us right?

I recall us discussing this after the election and nothing seems to have changed.

The Secretary of State [Sajid Javid] has responsibility for Consumer Issues within his strategy and policy portfolio but so far as I can see there is no allocated minister who can take questions on detail and speak for it in Parliament. Presumably it was only because of the Lib Dems that there was any coverage in the previous government. Now it is a situation vacant.

gov.uk/government/publications/swinson-jo-minister-for-employment-relations-and-consumer-affairs-bis-acoba-recommendation/summary-of-business-appointments-applications-jo-swinson

Darned if I can see anyone taking over that part of her role. AnnaSoubry got the Royal Mail aprt of the remit. My Google-fu has failed .

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There are plenty of good ministers in the present government who didn’t have a clue about their brief before they were appointed but are now basically competent to represent the issues and answer for them in Parliament. The point is that even the most hopeless minister will have an administration around them to deal with things and support their role. Without a minister, though, there is a void; there might be a desk in the corner and a filing cabinet where the odd bit of post gets opened and photocopied to somebody else but that’s it. No minister > no back up > no action. This portfolio has died; it is no more; it is extinct.

“Yes Minister” was entertaining but no minister is not funny.

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Now “Yes Prime Minister” is in limbo – the last episode was “No, Prime Minister”.

Perhaps the bureaucracy will diminish when we leave Europe? My breath is not held; i’m sure we will find the need for extra jobs. Be nice if some were devoted to looking after consumers.

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That’s right Duncan, and maybe we won’t be able to look to the EU to solve our tumble driers’ burning issues or washing machine door explosions.

Thankfully the UK has a Grade A Class 1 silver-tongued bureaucracy which will continue to tie us up in red tape for ever more. I am sure we shall just copy and paste many EU regulations into our statute books as Eire used to do with British laws for decades after partition. The mentality prevails.

Duncan – you ask why aren’t ministers “doing their job for the electorate and supporting them”. They probably think they are, according to the prospectus on which they were elected. As you yourself constantly remind us, the ministers in charge [for the time being at least] are on the side of big business; the electorate is fully aware of that and has nevertheless chosen them to govern. It’s a bit rich to expect them to act differently once in power. In terms of consumer protection it is quite obvious that the government has put it through the shredder and what is left is just little strips of paper. “Flaming tumble driers? That’s an industry problem. We’ll ask Peterborough Trading Standards to talk to them.”

Was there really a time when it wasn’t like this?

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With forthcoming changes in the main political parties, perhaps now is a good time to push the need for government that is responsive to its citizens.

I certainly think that is one of the messages that has emerged from the neverendum.

I’m lucky to have two homes one in north Wales and one in Gloucestershire. I’m unlucky enough to have bought an indesit dry for each home. It’s interesting to note that I registered them at the same time at risk. I’ve had the Gloucestershire one modified but I don’t have a date for modification on the one in north Wales. Are the manufacturers being selective by region ? My home in north Wales is not remote, it’s only about 20 miles from Wrexham or Chester .

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I think it’s more likely that the manufacturer doesn’t have full service coverage. My home in Wales is not a remote place. 30 mins drive from a large town like Chester or Wrexham. The engineer who came to modify my drier in Gloucestershire told me to bring the Wales based tumble drier to Gloucestershire to be fixed due to lack of service coverage. Not impressed

I guess it’s a matter of geographic product density which dictates that clusters of machines will receive attention more quickly than scattered ones where mileages between house calls [and therefore response times] are higher. When you are staying in North Wales you might find it better to hang washing outside to dry – unless it’s always raining.