/ Home & Energy

Win! Safety advice changed for dangerous dryers, but we need a full recall

London Fire Brigade

In a damning indictment of the product safety system’s failure to stand up for consumers, it’s taken the threat of legal action for Peterborough Trading Standards to take enforcement action against Whirlpool.

Some of you will recall that in December 2016, we filed a claim for a judicial review into Peterborough Trading Standards’s handling of the Whirlpool fire-risk dryer saga.

Following the filing of this legal review, Peterborough Trading Standards has since issued two enforcement notices on Whirlpool.

Safety advice

The enforcement notices require Whirlpool to change its advice and warn owners of affected dryers to unplug and stop using the machines until they are repaired.

This has been our advice since November 2015 when the safety issue hit the news. But it has taken until now, and our legal threat, for Trading Standards to see that the risk was all too evident from the hundreds of fires caused by fire-risk Whirlpool brand dryers.

As a result of this enforcement action we will cease with the legal process at this time.

However, Whirlpool still needs to take action to address many of the other points identified by us, namely: addressing the speed at which repairs and replacements are being carried out; acting in the best interests of affected customers; properly training its call centre staff to give accurate information; and publishing a full list of the affected model numbers.

Whirlpool has now aknowledged that the affected dryers shouldn’t be used, so consumers are left without usable dryers, inconvenienced and out of pocket. We therefore want the company to do the right thing and issue a full recall of these dryers.

We also urge those with affected dryers (certain lines of Hotpoint, Indesit, Swan, Creda and Proline dryers) to go straight to Whirlpool and demand your machine is fixed. We also believe you should try and approach the retailer you bought your machine from to request a refund.

Product safety system

I believe this long-running issue highlights the fundamental weaknesses of the current product safety system – it shouldn’t take the threat of a judicial review to get Peterborough to act on its duties as a regulator, stand up for consumers and put their safety first.

This is a failing of the system that I’ll again be highlighting with ministers. We will not stand idly by as issues such as the Whirlpool fiasco go unresolved.

It’s clear that the government must reform the product safety system.

That’s why we’re calling on our supporters to back Andy Slaughter MP’s petition to help force a debate in Parliament on this safety issue and the product safety system.

I urge you to sign this to help guarantee a Parliamentary debate.

On 28 February 2017 the government posted its response to this petition (thank you to @Wavechange for the sharing the link). The response has been expected since the petition passed the minimum threshold of 10,000 signatures. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

Comments

Which a word of warning , I think Amazon or Which use CloudFlare , if so I have just been informed by a US security firm that its been hacked by the CloudBleed Bug- 3400 websites affected ALL subscribers must change their passwords NOW ! Change.org is affected , its been exposed by a Google employee Tavis Ormandy of Project Zero 1000,s are being sent reset emails . Question ? –does this apply to Which Conversations – Lauren/Patrick ?

I received this by email this morning:

Dear xxxxxxxx

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Call on the Government to urge Whirlpool UK to recall all faulty tumble dryers”.

Government responded:

Government has set up a Working Group to look at options to improve Product Recalls and Safety, and is in close contact with the enforcing authority working with Whirlpool to rectify this issue.

The Government places significant importance on the issue of product safety and considers that the safety of consumers should be the number one priority for manufacturers. Consumers can 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 recognises the efforts Whirlpool has made to rectify the problem with its affected tumble dryers. Of the 1.5 million affected appliances that consumers have registered with the manufacturer, 1.3m appliances have been modified or replaced and Whirlpool are resolving approximately 100,000 cases a month. However, the Government recognises that there remain many unregistered appliances in use across the UK.

Margot James, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility has written to Whirlpool and met representatives of the company, urging them to progress their programme of replacement and repair, and to improve communications with consumers on this issue. The Minister has, in particular, raised concerns about reaching out to those consumers with an affected machine who have not yet signed up for a repair or replacement.

Product safety legislation in the UK is enforced by Local Authority Trading Standards departments. The Government is in close contact with Peterborough City Council Trading Standards department who, as the lead regulator in this matter, have access to the most relevant information to provide a full assessment of the risk posed by the affected machines. Peterborough Trading Standards have taken enforcement action, issuing Whirlpool with a ‘notice to warn’ that requires the company to warn consumers not to use the affected appliances until they have been modified. The two organisations are currently working together to ensure compliance.

More generally, in October last year, the Government announced the establishment of a new Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety to look at further options to improve the safety of white goods and the recalls system. The Working Group aims to build on the good work of the Recall Review Steering Group, which was established following the Lynne Faulds-Wood review into product recalls.

The Working Group brings together key stakeholders from a range of trade associations, product safety experts, the fire service and trading standards professionals. The Chair is Neil Gibbins – former Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset – who has a long and proven track record in fire safety and has worked with the Government and other stakeholders on the Regulators Excellence Forum.

The Group has been tasked to develop credible recommendations to ensure that the system works well for everyone. In particular, the Minister has asked the Group to consider and develop options around:
• the causes of fire in white goods and the steps we can take to reduce them;
• ways to improve the capture and use of data relating to faulty electrical goods;
• the value of marking white goods to preserve their identification through fire;
• registration of electrical products at the point of sale;
• a code of practice for product recalls including the peer review of risk assessments;
• improving the information available to consumers and the role of consumer education.

The Working Group passed its initial recommendations for propriety action for the Government to the Minister in December 2016. The five recommendations are:
• greater co-ordination of product safety recalls and enforcement at the national level;
• developing Primary Authority Partnerships as a means of increasing access to helpful, practical advice for businesses and ensuring effective relationships between businesses and their lead regulating body;
• developing a Code of Practice on managing effective correction action including recalls;
• government support for AMDEA’s ‘Register my Appliance’ as a means to ensure consumers are informed of relevant safety issues for products they have bought;
• undertaking research into consumer behaviour to understand how best to encourage consumers to engage with a corrective action when a problem is identified with a product.

The Group is continuing to develop an action plan and will provide a final report to the Minister in March.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Click this link to view the response online:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/169835?reveal_response=yes

The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee

Thanks,
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

That looks similar to what I read two or three months ago. There is no mention of Which? or judicial review of Peterborough Trading Standards.

Thanks for sharing this @wavechange, we added a note in this convo and have also added an update here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/hotpoint-indesit-dryer-fire-andy-slaughter/

There is more than a touch of Yes, Minister about this with its references to numerous pieces of official apparatus including the dubiously named Regulators Excellence Forum. It says that the government “is in close contact with the enforcing authority working with Whirlpool to rectify this issue” – well, not until very recently I believe after Which? waved its judicial review application in Peterborough’s face and the government woke up to the potential embarrassment if certain matters were raised in open court. I can’t believe Peterborough acted entirely of its own volition and wasn’t strong-armed into issuing directions to Whirlpool [which was the bare minimum for neutralising the judicial review process]. It’s progress I suppose, but not as we know it.

The link I posted earlier, about the discussion in the House of Commons mentioned ‘Yes Minister’: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-09-13/debates/16091346000002/FaultyTumbleDryers(FireRisk)

Andy Slaughter said: “All of us who watched “Yes Minister” will know that setting up a steering group is what you do when you do not want to do anything. This is a particularly ineffective steering group.”

Little of the personal correspondence I have had about appliance fires gives me much confidence that progress will be made in the near future.

Lauren – Thanks for your actions.

The Government were “in close touch” ( 🙂 ) if you include two letters written 6 months apart to Whirlpool by their BIS Committee chaired by Iain Wright MP. The trouble is, like all the other organisations involved, they did not turn words into action, nor seemingly follow them up effectively. Even Which? have only succeeded in getting Whirlpool to tell people to unplug their appliances and not use them. But how many will have heard that advice, and how many will heed it? All a bit pointless really. Until we get automatic registration of an appliance at the point of sale we can never have an effective recall system, nor any way to tell all owners when there is a problem.

Strictly speaking, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is not an organ of government but a notionally independent arm of the legislature. Unfortunately the government doesn’t have to take any notice of select committees’ pontifications unless it suits it politically to do so. I wrote “notionally” because, apart from a limited secretariat that writes up the minutes and reports, the select committees don’t have anyone to take executive action on their behalf so they have to rely on the relevant civil service department to do it and Sir Humphrey always has a hundred reasons why it would not be . . . well, we know the rest.

This petition has been partly negated – Whirlpool’s advice has now been changed. The petition to “recall” 5 million machines only has any sense if you can contact those 5 million owners. Many of the owners have not registered their appliance and have not got in touch. So we don’t know who owns potentially faulty dryers.

it would be much better to have a petition to set up a proper recall system where the appliance is automatically registered with basic owner contact details by the seller at the time of purchase. Then we would know who to contact to recall faulty products – just like is done with cars (albeit as a byproduct of registration with DVLA).

We had our annual conference on Friday past and some info came to light on this.

A number of the repairers pointed out that they had scores of calls live that the customers have been contacted, written to, emailed, phoned and still have not made contact back to have the modification done.

When it was highlighted that some 2.4 million customers have been contacted but not responded most simply shrugged their shoulders and said that sounded about right in terms of the percentage they get of owners not bothering to do anything about it.

Which makes one wonder, how many of those people bother to maintain the machines if they can’t be bothered to get it modified for free in the face of what is being billed as a dangerous thing that could burn their home down?

Is the problem the product, the use, the recall or widespread apathy as on the face of it, it would appear that even when you do inform people, many simply ignore any warning?

K.

People are always going to behave unwisely and sometimes irresponsibly. If we could get our manufacturers to behave responsibly and design their dryers with all-metal cases, that would contain a fire and prevent it burning their home down.

Think of people living in a flat or a tower block. They could lose their home thanks to someone else having a fire.

I would be very grateful if you would convey this to the manufacturers.

I am wondering whether landlords and freeholders have a responsibility to press the tenants and leaseholders of apartment blocks and subdivided property to get their “Whirlpool” tumble dryers registered and repaired. I suspect that as a percentage of dwelling types there are more tumble dryers in such buildings than in houses with gardens or with access to an outdoor drying area. I consider that landlords and freeholders do have a duty of care and protection towards all the residents in a block. Local authorities and housing associations or trusts who manage extensive flatted estates have seemed to be fairly quiet on this; I would expect them at least to be proactive.

There is an assumption that your solution is effective and practical of course and, if so, you should you should surely stand your ground and pass this information on directly. The question of fire and domestic appliances, and matters such as fire containment, are already being looked at by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and by others including BSI in technical working groups as I have said before. These are experts, including manufacturers, in the various disciplines involved whose role is to improve standards. They have the information you refer to and much more.

As fires, in tower blocks and elsewhere, are far more likely to be caused by a cookers (17x tumble drier fires), Grills and toasters (4x), Microwave (2x), smoking (4x), perhaps we should consider these and, for buildings of multiple occupancy, install sprinklers in kitchens. That would deal with the many fires caused by negligence and misuse of products.

I agree, John. These dryers present more of a risk than those in a semi or detached house. No doubt there are conscientious landlords and tenants who meticulously clean their dryer filters but there are others who are less careful.

Sooner or later there will be an incident more serious than the Shepherd’s Bush fire and lessons may then be learned.

Malcolm – I will write to the chair of the working group and have another go at getting Which? involved.

I wonder if fitting sprinklers in homes would be wise, on the basis that the general advice is to keep water away from electrical appliances. With fat fires, water might make matters worse. On the basis that modern buildings have RCDs then presumably they would simply trip if an appliance got wet, sprinklers might be a useful if expensive approach. I discovered that sprinklers are common in Norway after remarking that there was one in the bathroom of an hotel room, so maybe there is some experience we could draw on.

It is well established that excluding air quickly puts out a fat fire and I had the opportunity to confirm this many years ago. That’s why I keep banging on about having appliances with all-metal cases that can contain fire. As you may remember I have been told that it is not possible to have a metal fascia, but I have now looked at machines in three launderettes and they all had metal (stainless steel) fascias. Dryers don’t need to have glass doors and some models have metal doors. Add a metal plate on the base and you have an appliance that could contain fire. It’s not rocket science but I don’t know of any manufacturer that sells all-metal domestic dryers. Have I missed something?

Malcolm reminds us that fires caused by cookers account for seventeen times the number of fires caused by tumble dryers. Is there any breakdown available of cooker fires between gas and electric types? I suspect the presence of a naked flame is a major contributor to cooker fires and a progressive safety policy would lead to the substitution of electricity for gas as an effective way of mitigating the risk of fires in kitchens.

Removing the minimal amount of plastic will NOT solve that problem. As I have stated repeatedly.

And, in the process you negate the electrical safety therefore, it’s a daft idea IMO that hold no merit whatsoever.

K.

Here is yet another photo showing how plastic has burned or melted, allowing fire to spread. Had the fascia and door been metal the dryer might have been damaged but the fire would have been contained. That’s hardly a daft idea.

Credit: Accrington Obverver

Are you claiming that machines in launderettes are electrically unsafe because they have metal fascias?

And every single appliance subject to an overheating or fire incident will show the same thing or near enough. Almost without exception.

And yet millions of them never have a problem.

Looks bad to an untrained eye but honestly, that’s really not all that severe. Show all the pictures you like of melted plastics, it’s just the nature of the beast and, they’re melted there by the look of it, looks fairly well contained to me.

Commercial machines to domestic is yet again an apples and oranges comparison.

They are far, far larger have way more space to place components out the way, are not having people work above them with cooking paraphernalia put on top or indeed spilled on top of them, can have far more robust components at a far greater cost, they are regularly maintained by professionals, often have switchgear remote from the fascia… need I go on?

Then throw into that mix that a full commercial machine will usually be at least five times the price of a standard average domestic machine. With a lesser warranty and you will need a maintenance contract that includes regular servicing.

They are completely different animals despite the basic premise being the same.

To me, people seem to often have no clue just how ludicrously cheap that the appliances they have in their home truly are.

If you want to tell people that they need to invest all that to get their washing done, good luck to you.

K.

The number of fires attributable to dryers and other white goods demonstrate that fire does spread in some cases. If you look at some of the examples online we are told that homes have been extensively damaged.

I gave the example of launderette dryers simply to refute your claim that it is essential to use plastic fascias for safety. I can envisage several ways of producing dryers and other appliances that are both electrically safe and able to contain fires, and I see no reason why this should add greatly to the cost.

Start any sort of fire anywhere and, in the right conditions, it will spread. No doubt about it.

Yet as one appliance engineer pointed out to me the other day, there’s more fire incidents with thatched roofs every year than there are with tumble dryers. And, there’s a few more tumble dryers out there than flamin’ (ha, ha) thatched roofs!!

Methinks some perspective is required!

However as you clearly hold little understanding of the industry or how the products are tested, approved, built and so on as well as clearly not acknowledging the constraints in play I do not think you are in a position to make demands of a design element to be altered when you have absolutely zero evidence to support that being even a remotely sensible notion.

Show me the evidence and I’ll happily look at it but, in the absence of any supporting factual evidence then, from the perspective of someone extremely familiar with the products and the industry in general I’m sorry but, the argument holds no water at all.

K.

Maybe it is pointless continuing this discussion, Kenneth, and I’m not keen on your recent comments. 🙁

Here is an article that I posted before in an earlier Conversation: http://electrical.theiet.org/wiring-matters/55/consumer-units/index.cfm

It is now a requirement to fit consumer units that have a non-combustible case, such as metal.

As has been discussed earlier, fire containment may become a requirement for dryer sold in the US, so there is a possibility that we could catch up eventually. I wonder how many people will have lost their homes before that happens.

“I wonder how many people will have lost their homes before that happens.”

Far less than the number that have a home with a thatched roof. 😉

Whilst I appreciate that you may not like my comments and, I think I understand why, I would have thought that appreciating different viewpoints was the purpose here, not to simply pursue pointless policies that waste the time and resources to hand and, all the more so from a single, solitary voice.

K.

From a “single solitary voice ” Kenneth ” – this post comes from ANOTHER “single solitary voice ” who supports Wavechange unilaterally , of coarse being a another “single solitary voice ” i must be wrong –right ? . I have no problem with those who have a totally diametrical viewpoint to mine , in fact I love a challenge , but in Wavechanges scientific view of the matter I completely agree with him . I refuse to take the side of the business industry when human life is either threatened or or brought to an end by the stubborn refusal to re-design so that a domestic item bought by the public will not go on fire due to a known design problem. Whirlpool – “too big to fail or criticize ” ? that line doesn’t work in the States unless we are talking big banks.

Science is based in evidence.

There is none I have yet seen presented to support this notion. Which fundamentally undermines the assertion that this is a scientific approach being taken.

Show me or the standards authorities evidence that there is a problem and that this would solve it and I’m sure it would be looked at but, with none you are wasting your time in my opinion.

K.

I know how science works, Kenneth. It was my career.

What do you think about the amended standard for consumer units? It makes sense to me. I remember my father having the hardwood fusebox changed when we moved into a three year old house in 1960. By introducing plastic consumer units, the industry seems to have reinvented poor design. I could give you a list of other examples of where we have moved backwards in my opinion.

My understanding is that fires in white goods are more common than those in consumer units, so why not tackle the bigger problem. If you think I’m some sort of a crank then just ignore my comments.

Thanks Duncan. I think we share some knowledge about what is good and what is bad design.

💭 I think they should have their own little sprinkler systems. 🚿

Tumble dryers extract water, so why not store some in a top reservoir for when fire is detected? 🔥

As Which? likes to say, problem nearly solved 🙃

Given I have no experience with consumer units and minimal knowledge of them as it’s not within my remit, I am not qualified to offer any meaningful opinion on the matter.

For appliances, I am and I can.

What I can say and, it might be relevant, might not be is that there are “safety people” paid to dream up ways to make stuff safer. That isn’t to say better or perhaps arguably in some instances even safer but, their job is to come up with stuff or, they’re out a job. Ask yourself, is it always the case in such an environment that any change was actually required or is it just machinations to keep people employed in a role that is not required?

We see stupid stuff all the time being done, both through standards and through designs, usually the latter to save money but it’s all legal.

And you then come full circle to what I’ve repeatedly been stating time and time again, if you want to change things you need to change the standards, if you want to change the standards you need facts, evidence or you are wasting your time. In fact, to paraphrase a little, yes you could come across as a “crank” if you’ve no evidence to support any change yet go about demanding alterations made for no apparent reason.

That is a sure fire way to get labelled that way if you ask me. Take the advice, don’t.. it will make no odds to me.

But you can perhaps see how, where that’s the case, manufacturers can easily just sweep aside such things as being crackpot notions.

Even from a legal standpoint, you can’t accuse someone of a crime without evidence, that’s a completely silly notion in our society and the same applies to this. If you have no evidence to support any wrong doing then there’s no case to answer.

The evidence, facts, proof are all that matter. Without them, you’re sunk before you even begin.

K.

You don’t need to understand much about consumer units, Kenneth. The plastic-cased variety could catch fire as a result of a poor connection, either setting light to flammable materials nearby or wiring in cavity walls. I presume that the relevant standard has been revised accordingly.

My evidence of a problem is that tumble dryers and other appliances cause fires: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2015/06/which-reveals-the-home-appliances-most-likely-to-catch-fire-406053/ It’s not a scientific approach to ignore evidence that does not support a personal view.

Maybe the people who produce standards for tumble dryers could consider how safety improvements have been made by the manufacturers of consumer units in complying with the relevant standard.

I would argue that there is a need to understand the risk/s.

I don’t have the first clue how many catch fire, why or whatever therefore I am not able to offer an opinion. To offer comment without a working knowledge and evidence of a problem, for me, would be tantamount to stupidity.

Appliances do go on fire occasionally, I would not disagree or argue the point.

The trick is to understand why. Then based on understanding, knowledge and evidence, address the issue/s if found.

All that article does is band about some stats, not evidence of an issue and, as I said earlier in a tongue in cheek manner is, the number of instances in the grand scheme of things is shockingly low relationally to the volume of product in use.

Case in point, Shepherds Bush, all the media hoopla only to find that, oops, it was actually faulty and it was that which led to the problem. Evidence, facts… not speculation.

Unless we are to ban thatched roofs, do away with them and use tile or indeed shroud them in metal so that the fire can’t spread to neighbouring trees or homes making people or squirrels homeless, just as an example. There are many, many more things that present an order of magnitude more risk than appliances is the point.

K.

We can agree that appliances go on fire occasionally. Obviously it is useful to understand the exact reasons but fire can destroy evidence. My approach is to assume that there is a possibility of a fire and to design the appliance so that the fire will be contained even if there was a fault such as the one you have referred to in the Shepherd’s Bush incident.

We have moved forwards by including thermal fuses and cutouts that can be reset or do this automatically. We have moved backwards by replacing metal in cases with plastic that melts or burns.

If Wavechange presents coloured photos of burnt out dryers where the flames have escaped from the dryer due to the plastic melting that is a fundamental fact. The arguments being presented are related to another branch of science -Social Constructionism -defined as a construct or construction concerning the meaning /connotation placed on an object or event by society and adopted by the inhabitants of that society with respect to how they view and deal with it. While accepted by that branch of society ,may not be representative of what is acceptable to another group rooted in symbolic interactionism /phenomenology in which reality is both revealed and concealed , it provides a substitute to the intellectual tradition of western society – where the researcher looks for certainty in a representation of reality by means of Propositions .Multiple realities can compete for truth and legitimacy . A major point here is- to uncover the ways in which groups participate in their construction of their perceived reality how social phenomena are CREATED , institutionalized and made into traditions by humans .

Uhm, no.

If you look back in time, automaticwasher.org is a reasonable start, you’ll find that plastic facias have been widely used since the 1950’s at least on all laundry products. Hardly a new idea.

Plastic doors in that period are also commonplace, not glass.

So moving backwards, no. The evidence dictates otherwise.

And, the evidence also would strongly suggest that the number of fires related to appliances has dropped or remained static depending on who’s stats you want to believe. But in any event, statistically, not even remotely a high number in relation to the products in use.

Front loading “wet” appliances have almost always used plastic to mitigate shock risk which is, as I have repeatedly told you, is a far, far greater risk.

K.

Dryer fires are hardly a recent phenomenon and I became aware of the problem in the early 70s. Maybe use of plastics contributed to the problem. My 1982 machine, now in retirement, has a metal fascia and detergent drawer but it’s thin aluminium plate mounted on plastic. That’s better than plastic alone but might not be sufficient to contain a fire.

I had not claimed that the number of appliance fires had increased, though I can see that you might assume this from my comments. My concern is that appliances are not designed to contain fire, as I have said many times.

An earthed metal case is a time honoured way of making sure that electrical goods used in a wet environment are safe.

And, dryer fires are almost invariably caused by a lack of maintenance or blockage or vents.

Nothing will alter that.

K.

I agree that this could cause a fire to start in the dryer but if the dryer is designed to contain fire it will not spread and set the house alight, as I have said many times before.

The vent that often burns, isn’t in the dryer so any containment would have zero effect.

The fact is that most of the damage you see in such photos are not a result of fire, more often from an overheat or internal small fire that is contained. Instances where there is damage to the surroundings is actually very rare indeed.

Charring, scorching, smoke damage yes but actual fire spreading is incredibly rare.

Normally you find the same on most other appliances.

Unless of course there is evidence to show otherwise?

The trade off if you like is, far greater electrical shock protection which could be extremely common were it not for the design the way they are or, arguably on your presumption greater fire containment but you’d sacrifice shock protection.

This is why all wet products have not got metal facias, go look. The standards mandate that they must be made from an insulating material… i.e., plastics.

As I told you before, there is good reason and I would argue vehemently that shock protection was a far, far greater danger than the risk of fire. I think a case of, you can’t have your cake and eat it.

All the while, you’re packing this into an incredibly small space, 600x600x850, there’s simply not the space to do much. Such as isolate electrical switchgear away from the control panel as you can in a large commercial machine. So, that is unworkable in practical terms.

Cooking products are different as they can cause true fires but, that’s again always due to what’s in them or on them, not the machines themselves.

And again, you’re back to changing the standards and if you want to do that you need to do so on an EU if not international level and hold evidence that mandates the need for change away from electrical safety to more fire safety. Good luck proving that as, to date, still not a scrap of evidence to support the need for what you suggest.

K.

I guess we will just have to agree to differ, Kenneth.

This long and repeated discussion on fires in domestic appliances keeps missing the point that the international community are aware of problems with fires in domestic appliances – BSI in the UK, a contributing member to international safety standards, has an active working group of experts currently looking at this. So while we can talk about it, others are actively addressing it. I’d suggest we ask Which? to also actively engage with BSI and ensure consumers ideas and concerns are heard.

It would give me some confidence if the minutes of the meetings were made public or better, made available as videos – like the meetings of the Board of Food Standards Agency. One of the functions of standards is to ensure that commercial products are safe, and I suggest that transparency is vital.

It is vital that meetings such as these are conducted in a way that members from all disciplines give information freely – whether this might be commercially sensitive, embarrassing, controversial, or whatever. Their job is to get the right outcome. So no, I do not want to see any move to inhibit this process, and putting such an activity in the public domain could do that.

I rely on the expertise and integrity of all those involved and to do their job properly. If Which? were represented, as they should be and hopefully will be, they could monitor proceedings on behalf of consumers and bring anything out for discussion and constructive comment. A committee list can be found at https://standardsdevelopment.bsigroup.com/committees/50001507#4

I could not disagree more, Malcolm. We need transparency, and if companies and other organisations are aware that they are under observation we might not need to have discussions like this one. Withholding information is necessary for reasons of national security and occasionally for other valid reasons but here we are discussing fire risks associated with appliances and other household goods.

Tom barley says:
1 March 2017

I have one of the hotpolnt driers that are affected and I have been waiting for nearly a year to have it fixed. I have not been contacted by hotpoint about the latest news that I should not use it so what happens if I do use it and it catches fire ?

It is difficult to know what to suggest, Tom. It will do no harm to keep contacting the company and hope that they will respond, as they have done to other owners.

As you are aware of the advice it would be irresponsible to continue using it. However, this problem of “waiting” (a year) is a condemnation of the whole repair/replace fiasco that Peterborough Trading Standards seem to have condoned or agreed to. If your drier is known to be faulty, and under 6 years old then my understanding of the Sale of Goods Act is that you are entitled to a repair or replacement, your choice, without unreasonable inconvenience and delay. The replacement should be free of charge. This is a claim against the retailer. Until someone follows through their legal rights we will seemingly continue at the present pace – leaving all those who have not registered with potentially unsafe machines for evermore.

I have asked Which? to comment on the legality of charging for replacement machines.

Tom, if you now use your dryer and it catches fire, you won’t be able to place as much blame on its manufacturer, you’ll have to place some of the blame on yourself for not following their latest advice.

If you need a safe and reliable dryer right now, your safest bet would be to spend money now to make your drying arrangements safe.

If you did carry on using it, even with any and all fire precautions that you might consider appropriate, that would be at your own risk.

In event of a fire it might be difficult to get an insurance company to pay out if the manufacturer has instructed you not to use it until it has been modified.

I would like a legally binding answer to Wavechange,s post , as according to my definition of English contract law you are NOT covered . Please straightforward replies -yes or no ?

The problem dryers were manufacturers over a long period, starting in April 2004. Whirlpool has indicated that it intends to deal with the problem and not just those that were sold within the past six years, the period during which we have statutory rights against the retailer.

Repair and replacement of potentially dangerous goods is often handled by manufacturers or their agents rather than the retailers that sold the product. Manufacturers have legal responsibilities regarding safety of their products.

Should we be looking at legislation other than the Sale of Goods Act/Consumer Rights Act? I did mention this in an earlier Conversation. I wonder if you could ask the Which? legal experts @ldeitz

An earlier comment of mine refers to those with older dryers, that will essentially rely on goodwill it seems. However, for those with products under 6 years old (5 Scotland) I have suggested that the Sale of goods Act seems to provide clear legal remedies for unsafe products. These remedies are the retailers’ responsibility in law; I see no reason why a manufacturer cannot agree to take these on with the same or better terms. Nevertheless, we have a law to help consumers and I am perplexed as to why this was not used.

Looking back, it might have been better, if we had known how badly this was going to be handled, to have instigated a class action so all affected owners knew where they stood, were treated equally, and appropriate remedies and compensation agreed. The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful attribute. But I think this could have been done after 6 months of poor action – a penalty that Peterborough Trading Standards might have considered if Whirlpool did not perform adequately.

We have discussed the value of goodwill but it would be a sad state of affairs if we had to rely on goodwill for manufacturers to sort out products that are beyond the period during which we have statutory protection. I expect that people are still discovering that they have recalled Bosch dishwasher but I doubt that the company would deny them action to make their machine safe. http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/2011/07/bosch,-neff-and-siemens-dishwashers/

Companies are liable for the safety of their products and I hope that this is not restricted to customers’ statutory rights. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/product-liability-and-safety-law

I agree with that. But what I was pointing out that there was established legal redress covering dryers up to 6 (5) years old, but as it did not go beyond that either other law needs to be invoked (if there is any) or we would rely on a goodwill solution maybe imposed if a manufacturer was not forthcoming.

The current law as far as I see requires replacement free of charge, so I do not see why Whirlpool are charging customers.

I would very much support a solution being imposed on Whirlpool, though it is obviously not goodwill by any definition I am aware of. If I had my way they would not be allowed to sell any more dryers until the had dealt with the current problems. It might focus some minds.

I would still like to know why normal consumer law was not applied, and what is actually wrong with the faulty dryers. Do you think anyone will get round to telling us?

Exactly malcolm !! , don’t hold your breath I have seen the new big business/ global policy behind closed and guarded doors and it does the public no favours , its government “concession ” to global companies and “greying ” of a countries laws but not to the USA of coarse .

Sentiment in the trade is, it’s a “CYA” move.

They could have gotten away with it, Indesit did for years but WP took the view they should act on it.

Only to be roundly derided for doing so.

They could have hidden it, ignored it, let it all run it’s course, deal with it behind close doors as Duncan alludes to but they didn’t.

Arguably they did the right thing.

Why then should they be punished for doing that? And, as I’ve said before, if you do choose to punish companies for coming clean and holding their hands up to a mistake, do you seriously expect that others would even consider that an option in the future.

In this case all the more so as, it wasn’t Whirlpool’s mistake yet they’re taking the flak.

I can assure you, I know several other companies in the industry that would not have acted so.

K.

No-one is criticising Whirlpool for publicising that there is a problem with some of their machines. They are being criticised for not issuing a recall and the absurd time they are taking to deal with the problem.

Whirlpool are not to blame for the fault, I agree Ken. But they bought Indesit as a commercial deal to make more profit, presumably, and having bought a problem are obliged to deal with it. They should either have done better research to know what they were buying or maybe they did know what they were buying; either way, they have obligations that must be met. Maybe they can sue Indesit to recover some of the cost.

I do not go along with duncan’s conspiracy theory. I am absolutely certain that the problem(s) with Indesit and their branded dryers is well known, not a secret, and so is the function of the remedy. I would just like to know. I would also like to know, as well, why the dryers are considered more fire-prone anbd whether they would pass the BS EN 60335-2-11 safety standard. I do not know why no one – particularly Which? – does not look for and provide answers to fundamental questions. Particularly as the answers might help make dryers safer in the future.

Well, it’s a bit more complex that that, as you might expect.

Whirlpool likely bought Indesit to gain more traction in some regions. For example, Whirlpool’s UK market share was tiny, the smallest of all the “big boys” and the same in other territories I gather so, it’s a quick way to gain that traction.

Indesit meanwhile was in dire straits and had this come up in their tenure there is a fair chance that the company would have floundered and that would have left everyone that owned one up the creek with no paddle.

At times, to me, it seems that the public in general and the press seem to assume that these large companies that have turnover in the millions if not billions can throw unlimited resources at a problem when the reality is, they just can’t. You don’t just flick a switch and get additional staff, materials or production capacity all that takes many months if not years of planning and building and, you need to find the funding to do it.

If they don’t, there’s every likelihood that it will fail or be a complete disaster often only serving to worsen the situation.

Logically then, dealing with this any faster is probably impossible. All can whine and moan about it all they like, it won’t change the facts of the matter.

I have said this before but I will repeat it, these are **NOT** Whirlpool products so they are not “their machines”, they bought the problem and I strongly suspect unaware of it or they’d have avoided it like the plague. It got dumped on them and they’ve had to do what they can to try to fix the problem as best possible with the resource available.

They’ve got slammed with the larger recall ever seen, without the staff to deal with it or the production capacity to cope with the replacement demand.

To get over those issues, count in years.

If UK plc et all push too hard the obvious solution is to bankrupt the business and bug out the UK, it’s not a big market anyway in the grand scheme and that limits the damage but, it stuffs the owners. But, that’s no different to what would probably have happened if Indesit had to have taken this on way back whenever.

Any business or individual is only going to go so far before they take some sort of counteractive measures.

Which is why I have said that what has been done so far is probably the best possible outcome for all. I get that people are baying for blood and to me it looks like the villagers are out with pitchforks and torches on a witch hunt and, one that could ultimately prove to be a very misguided course of action as it could easily end up being detrimental.

I also get that some people may well think that to be reasonable but, if you bankrupt the company or force them to take some sort of action that proves detrimental then I ask you, who wins from that?

And if you think that unlikely or not possible, Duncan’s “too big to fail” theory then just Google Fagor Domestic Appliances. Fifth largest manufacturer in Europe that everyone though unassailable went pop in 2013 leaving millions of owners in the lurch all across Europe and beyond.

The appliance manufacturers and, more so the smaller ones, are living on a knife edge to survive. Push too hard and they will fail.

Thus far I believe, from what I can find out, that probably a decade or more’s worth of profit from Whirlpool UK has been eaten up in this to Dec. 16, at what point will they decide to cut their losses and bail? Or do we all accept it is what it is and allow them to limp on with what resources they have and do all that they reasonably can to sort the problem?

I do think that they could have handled some things better, especially dealing with the media but what flexibility they have, no clue.

The dryers would have passed the safety standards, they had to. If they didn’t and were sold not meeting them then that’s a matter for the authorities to take up however I have not seen any evidence to support that train of thought to date. Again, without evidence to support such a claim it is likely to see the long grass quickly.

K.

I wonder if standards compliance testing involved looking at used machines that have been in normal use and allowed to accumulate lint. It would make sense to do this.

Doubtful.

They can only assume that the machines will be used in accordance with the instructions or you could go on forever playing the “what if” game, which never ends.

I’d imagine there’d be some degree of tolerance built into the testing but how far do you go?

To see the damage witnessed on most the dryer would have had to have been ram packed with lint so, filters not cleared for months if ever or a fault present that allowed it to gather. You can’t really account for that in testing or you’re back to playing the game of “what if”.

And yes, the troops report going to multiple calls and explaining clearing filters to owners who never knew it was there and had never cleaned it. Not uncommon at all. It’s therefore highly doubtful the user manual was ever looked at let alone read.

K.

When carrying out risk assessments I do my best to take account of the fact that people do not always behave as responsibly as they should. As I have mentioned so many times it would be useful to use some form of interlock that would force users to clean the filter of their dryer before a cycle could be started. Doing proper risk assessments does require ‘what if’ questions to be asked.

Unfortunately we don’t know if lint accumulates in the dryers in question of the filter is cleaned methodically. This possibility should be considered when standards are drawn up or revised.

The value of using continuous committees and working groups that keep standards continually under review is that they will be looking at what happens in use to see what improvements can be made in the future.

That applies in all walks of life. I was involved in committees that sought to improve standards in learning, teaching and assessment. I was well aware of the activities of our safety committee because all staff were kept informed and could make an input, both formally and informally. I wholeheartedly agree in the need for continuous improvement.

I wonder how those responsible for standards have allowed manufacturers to use plastics that can burn or melt in the cases of their appliances. I would like to see the minutes of relevant discussions, assuming that the issue has been discussed. As members of the public we should have a right to access to matters that affect our safety.

The safety standards, as I have explained before, deal comprehensively with the use of non-metallic materials and include resistance to heat and burning. Experts in the different fields, including fire authorities, oversee the production of standards and are well-placed and informed to make appropriate decisions. The BSI website gives a full list of all the organisations and individuals who contribute to committee work. Drafts for development are regularly issued for public comment – where anyone can have there say. BSI can be directly approached if someone thinks they have good ideas or concerns. And BSI are only one component of an international organisation that looks after standards. I doubt they act in any way other than with propriety.

In my view if we have a problem with something we should take personal action, not simply talk about it and sit back. If you believe you know better than the IEC on plastics then approach them or BSI with your concerns. For many, I would hope Which? will, in future, be one of the organisations representing consumers’ interests in standards development.

As you have said before, they will already know about the problem. If I was setting up an organisation to set and improve standards it would have no-one with a commercial interest involved.

Isn’t the evidence that dryers and other appliances cause house fires enough for you to question whether the standards are adequate? Do the standards examine the plastics used in the cases of appliances? If not, they are not comprehensive, whatever the claims.

Those with a “commercial interest” include, of course, manufacturers who understand better than anyone the workings of products, problems, new developments, and so on. I do not share the implied view that manufacturers are all crooks and should not be involved.

I have sat on committees representing both manufacturers and professional organisations. My experience was that all acted with integrity and aimed to ensure standards improved. Have you sat on the committees dealing with international safety standards and what was your experience?

I did not say or imply that all manufacturers or any of them are crooks, Malcolm. As I’m sure you know, independent assessment is the gold standard. That’s why Which? does not test washing machines submitted by manufacturers or allow them to sponsor tests. Long may that continue. When my research was sponsored by companies I was expected declare this in papers and reviews.

To repeat my questions: Do the standards examine the plastics used in the cases of appliances? If not, they are not comprehensive, whatever the claims.

I’ve said earlier that standards cover plastics in domestic appliances.
Standards are not about “independent assessment”. They are about professional, experienced and knowledgeable people from a wide range of appropriate disciplines exchanging information, views, deciding research, examining outcomes to put together practical workable solutions and tests in documents that will improve, in the case of domestic appliances for example, their safety in the widest sense. Manufacturers are a core resource in this process – they know far more about the workings of products, ways changes can be made, current research than anyone else. Excluding them would be like excluding teachers from a discussion on education, or lawyers from a revision to legislation.

If plastics in casings of appliances have to be resistant to heat and burning, why do I have four appliances that have flammable plastics in their casings? I have now posted numerous photos showing fire damaged appliances with burned or melted plastics in the casings, so the problem is not restricted to the ones I own. Either the standards must be inadequate or there must be a compliance problem. I cannot see an alternative explanation.

There is certainly some independent assessment in higher education. The external examiner of my PhD thesis was a professor from the University of Bath and he asked plenty of questions to check that I understood what was in the document and that it had been written by me and not my supervisor or anyone else. Independent assessment is used in various ways to make sure that undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and assessment is adequate and in line with the published requirements.

Please accept that I am not criticising standards in general and I do appreciate their value.

I presume the professor had some knowledge of education, if not your subject? Just as manufacturers have full knowledge of their products. Why on earth exclude anyone with valuable and specialist knowledge that only they possess?

However, to go over old ground, all this is being actively discussed by the standards organisations. We can help them with useful contributions. Lets just move on, shall we?

He certainly did. In a UK viva there is normally an internal examiner there to ensure fair play. In my case it was my PhD supervisor but often it’s another member of staff who has read the thesis. On the continent it is common to have the candidate defend his thesis in front of a panel.

The problems that I have outlined demonstrate a problem. It’s not difficult to see that if an appliance goes on fire the fire should be contained. You are convinced that the relevant standards organisations are doing a good job and I’m not so sure. In my experience, expert knowledge and common sense don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

“If plastics in casings of appliances have to be resistant to heat and burning, why do I have four appliances that have flammable plastics in their casings? I have now posted numerous photos showing fire damaged appliances with burned or melted plastics in the casings, so the problem is not restricted to the ones I own. Either the standards must be inadequate or there must be a compliance problem. I cannot see an alternative explanation.”

I’ve certainly found those photos quite informative – thanks for posting them.

In this context, is the IEC use of “fire resistant” perhaps a bit like the use of “showerproof” in respect of outdoor clothing?

Clearly the photos show, that given a large enough dryer fire, contemporary plastic dryer front panels will fail, leaving a nice large hole that will let the smoke out.

Given that Kenneth has stressed the electrical safety reasons for not using all metal cases, it might be useful to consider the potential uses of insulating materials that can survive much higher temperatures than typical plastics. Many such materials seem to be already in use here in my kitchen, e.g. as ceramic and glass ovenware.

Thanks Derek. My main concern is that electrical appliances can go on fire for a variety of reasons and therefore they should be designed to contain fire so that it will not spread to surrounding flammable materials. Had the dryers now owned by Whirlpool been designed in this way a fire might have started but gone out when the oxygen had been depleted.

As you say, there are other materials available that will survive high temperatures. There is no reason why plastic should not be used in cases providing that this is backed by material that will contain fire. I mentioned earlier that the control panel of my ovens is not plastic.

The main parts of the case of appliances are metal and earthed to make them safe. I am not sure why it might be a safety hazard to do this with the fascia.

Derek, as I have reported earlier, the question of fire in domestic appliances, and fire containment, is already in front of the international committee (the IEC), the UK committee and working group (BSI) and, I understand, other national committees.

Earlier I also reported on testing plastics. Standards give comprehensive test procedures and interpretation of the results for non-metallic materials.

Malcolm – Are you able to give me the exact wording to confirm that tests are carried out on plastics used in appliance casings? I seem to remember that tests were only carried out on non-metallic materials that were either close to a source of heat or to catch fire.

The Consumer Righrs Act 2015 says (and I presume it mirrors the relevant requirements of the Sale of Goods Act):
9 Goods to be of satisfactory quality
(1)Every contract to supply goods is to be treated as including a term that the quality of the goods is satisfactory.
………..
(3)The quality of goods includes their state and condition; and the following aspects (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—
…………….
(d)safety;

23 Right to repair or replacement
(1)This section applies if the consumer has the right to repair or replacement (see section 19(3) and (4)).
(2)If the consumer requires the trader to repair or replace the goods, the trader must—
(a)do so within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, and
……
(3)The consumer cannot require the trader to repair or replace the goods if that remedy (the repair or the replacement)—
(a)is impossible, or
(b)is disproportionate compared to the other of those remedies.
(4)Either of those remedies is disproportionate compared to the other if it imposes costs on the trader which, compared to those imposed by the other, are unreasonable, taking into account—
(a)the value which the goods would have if they conformed to the contract,
(b)the significance of the lack of conformity, and
(c)whether the other remedy could be effected without significant inconvenience to the consumer.”

Thus it seems to me that, as the consumer should have a repair or replacement in a reasonable time without significant inconvenience, Whirlpool have failed to meet these legal obligations that they decided to take over from their retailers. The obvious remedy is to either compensate affected consumers or provided replacement dryers free of charge.

@patrick, assuming @pvicarysmith may not reply, could you explain whether this legal remedy is correctly interpreted? If it is, why have consumers not been helped to use it – if not by Which? then more generally by Peterborough Trading Standards?

Earlier in this Convo I speculated that, in view of the many diverse causes of fire in dwellings, it would be sensible to install a sprinkler system, particularly in kitchens, and particularly for multi-occupancy buildings. I should have done some research…….the current edition of Private Eye, in its serious section, says: “Plenty of housing associations do use sprinklers in both houses and flats. In Wales installation of sprinklers is now compulsory.”
Whilst prevention is better than cure, when prevention fails, cure is handy.

I wonder whether it is wise to use water sprinklers in rooms with a lot of electrical equipment. Hopefully the water would just trip the RCD.

A firefighter I spoke to said that alcohol is a factor in many fires. I did not ask him to explain but have heard that people fall asleep after drinking and there is a fat fire. Thermostatic deep fat fryers have been available for many years yet some still use chip pans.

There is a lot that people can do to protect their homes and families from fire but the priority should be to focus on multi-occupancy buildings, especially tower blocks.

The appliance manufacturers could do their bit by designing products that will contain fire if a problem arises.

I’d rather see a fire put out with sprinklers and the RCD trip that let a fire run amock. Far, far more fires are caused by things other than domestic appliances. Sprinklers would help with the whole problem perhaps?

I’m not disagreeing and I will be interested to see what sprinklers achieve in controlling domestic fires. However, my first priority is that appliances should be designed to contain fires.

I found some good advice on fighting kitchen fires at firesafe dot org dot uk.

Ordinary water does not seem to be recommended for all potential fires (not least cooking oil or electrical appliances) but dry water mist would be a good choice for both those types.

Shane Osborne says:
26 October 2017

Hotpoint Head Office are ignoring the advice of there engineers and refusing to replace faulty, dangerous dryers!