/ 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

This comment was removed at the request of the user

One might comment that this is also a damning indictment of Which?’s failure for over a year to take issue with Peterborough CC’s handling of Whirlpool’s rectification plan, and not for the want of plenty of good advice and pleadings from numerous contributors here. If Which? had acted sooner with a legal action against the trading standards enforcement authority some dangerous situations might have been avoided. Anyway, that is water under the bridge now and I am pleased that Which? are still going to pursue Whirlpool and keep the pressure up on Peterborough CC – after all, there are still serious breaches of the Sale of Goods Act and the Consumer Rights Act that have not been dealt with.

Why blame Which? Surely the Government should have had this wrapped up by now.
If this was America Whirlpool would be getting dragged , quite rightly, through the courts.

Well I agree with you, John, but the government has done virtually nothing to resolve the Whirlpool problems and just left it to the local authority trading standards department. You are right – the government is to blame through and through because they have also starved local authorities of the resources required to enforce the consumer protection and health & safety laws.

I quite often notice that if MPs are not personally affected by anything nothing is done or things happen very very slowly

That’s a valid point, Bishbut.

Consumer protection has been so much relegated by the government that many MP’s are probably not even aware themselves of how to assist their constituents and where to turn to for advice.

Do we know exactly why the US seems to act on these issues more quickly?

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I am very disappointed that the government has not done more to deal with the problem that Whirlpool has failed to act in a timely fashion over a serious safety issue. Recalls are issued by manufacturers but I believe that this should be taken out of their hands when they fail to act responsibly.

I would like to see Which? investigate the failings of Trading Standards, both at a local and national level. There seems little doubt that this is in part due to chronic underfunding for which governments past and present must take the blame. It is vital that we restore Trading Standards to being an effective organisation and many of the problems we discuss on Which? Conversation are as a result of the present ineffective service.

I do hope that in future, Which? will act more promptly over serious issues.

It is within Trading Standards remit to ensure product safety problems and possible recalls are dealt with properly. Peterborough TS have failed dismally in their job. They are overseen by their local authority who should be rebuked and, presumably, by the National Trading Standards, a government agency, who should be conducting the investigation.

The Business Innovations and Skills committee originally showed interest by writing to Whirlpool. In September their letter finished with “In the light of this tower block blaze I would like to understand whether you intend to change your customer advice, given London Fire Brigade has urged that customers should not use their appliance until it has been checked and repaired. If not, please explain why not.” That letter was dated 13th September 2016.

Win!…………… What Win?……………… No one has won except those who support procrastination.

It is the responsibility of the government to make sure that organisations put in place for the benefit of the citizens of this country are doing a satisfactory job. Clearly that is not happening in the case of Trading Standards.

Unfortunately, malcolm, I don’t think the National Trading Standards organisation has any oversight at all over the local authority trading standards services. They probably just about manage to liaise when one of their specialist operations is taking place in the area but NTS seem to have a completely detached agenda. I have no criticism of the allocated functions of NTS as they do require coordinated country-wide attention but there is clearly a missed opportunity to harness its expertise to the much-reduced local authority efforts when the need arises. The NTS focusses on intelligence gathering, and its current ‘work areas’ cover e-crime, mass marketing scams, doorstep crime, illegal money lending, and other enforcement issues that go beyond local authority boundaries. They also have an estate agency team and deal with safety at ports and borders. It has possibly creamed off the best trading standards officers from local authorities in order to set up its operation.

“We also believe you should try and approach the retailer you bought your machine from to request a refund.”. I asked Which? about giving this advice – to use the legal provisions of the Sale of Goods Act – near the beginning of this sorry saga a year ago. They said no, it wouldn’t get anywhere. So in their words “But it has taken until now” (17 months) to advise consumers to use their existing legal protection .

“I believe this long-running issue highlights the fundamental weaknesses of the current product safety system”. It also highlights Which?’s inability to do more than issue angry words at long intervals, when consumers want action. They have had 17 months to show that they “make consumers as powerful as the organisations they deal with”.

The resolution of this whole problem lies at Peterborough Trading Standards’ door. They agreed to Whirlpool’s advice and proposals for handing repairs and have allowed this situation to drag on for so long. It is time we realised that Trading standards needs to be properly funded and that national issues like this should be dealt with by National Trading Standards at national level, and not left to an impotent and inept local office.

I am angry with Trading Standards, but also with Which? for having no effective strategy other than journalism. I pay a subscription for them to do more than that. And to claim some sort of victory now!!……how much longer must people wait before their dryers are fixed?

Whirlpool should give affected customers
– compensation for the time they have been, and will be, without a safe tumble dryer
– provide a guaranteed repair to all affected customers within 12 weeks
If they cannot achieve this:
– provide all affected customers with a new machine if theirs is less than 6 years old
– offer all other customers a contribution towards a new machine of their choice.
It is time Whirlpool faced the consequences of their inaction and drew this incident to a close.

With the known inadequacy of the UK’s trading standards services it is more important than ever that they appreciate that Which?, as the only organisation that appears competent and ready to act, will be after them if they fail to exercise their legal powers and duties when public safety is at risk or when major companies are miss-selling goods or breaching consumer protection legislation.

Which?’s application for a judicial review has clearly spurred Peterborough City Council into belated action on Whirlpool, the result of which is not exactly satisfactory for the hundreds of thousands of owners of appliances that should have been recalled or repaired months ago. If they follow the advice to disconnect their tumble dryers they will suffer further inconvenience and for many people who have no alternative drying arrangements for bedding and towels this will be very disruptive and costly if they have to take their laundry elsewhere to be washed and dried.

We have been discussing in other Conversations the need to fund and reinforce our trading standards functions so that they are fit for purpose and to establish them on a rational basis with authorities, or combinations of local authorities, at local level who have the specialists, the resources, and the capability to take companies to task and prosecute them without fear, backed up by the National Trading Standards organisation to deal with UK-wide cases and other major concerns where multi-national corporations and other big consumer goods companies are involved. The national organisation also needs to collate complaints so that emerging cross-boundary problems can be recognised and addressed. But, to start with, all local authority trading standards offices need to be aware that if they neglect their duties to protect consumers Which? will be taking action against them to make them take appropriate action to enforce the law. Local authorities do not have an absolute right to decide what they will and will not do; on application, the courts have the power to make compulsory orders where they are satisfied that an authority has been derelict in its duty in a way that is against the public interest. These are little used measures but it is timely that Which? and the consumer movement generally reminds the enforcement authorities that trading standards are essential services that cannot just be decimated under the guise of budgets cuts.

The pages of Which? Conversation are full of reports by contributors about faulty goods, dodgy double-glazing firms, miss-selling of financial products, useless solar panel installers, suppliers of electrical appliances with illegal power plugs, builders who exploit the vulnerable, pricing anomalies in supermarkets, consumer rights denials, used car merchants who sell unsafe motors to innocent buyers, and a host of other problems that trading standards have barely touched with a feather. Would it be unfair to suggest that commerce has taken advantage of the known deficiency of trading standards to allow these problems to multiply and persist? The UK is open for business; yes, wide open, so it’s time to stand at the gate and carry out some checks.

In today’s automated world in which near enough everything is internet based and trying to get through to complain by phone is near impossible, the consumer needs and deserves a better way to be heard and to be taken seriously. Which has taken the lead in this case, how can the consumers at large take its complaints forward, and not be dragged into endless automated telephone messages and come to dead end electronic walls?

BoilingFrog says:
22 February 2017

We have been directly affected by this issue. The tumble dryer in the house we are renting is one under the recall notice. I registered on behalf of the landlady to have the machine repaired on 12th of Feb 2016. At that point the advice we received was that a repair would be arranged within 8 weeks. When the repair man came 3 months later he did not have the required parts (despite Hotpoint having been given the correct model information weeks earlier). We then waited until… 24th December before the repair was carried out. Even at that point the engineer wanted to replace another part which he didn’t have with him, which finally took place in January.
It is staggering to me that a manufacturer can supply, not only defective, but dangerous appliances and not be forced immediately to address the situation. Throughout the entire period we waited for the repair we were offered a limited selection of new models at reduced prices. However, according to Which’s review, none of the models offered achieved better than about 50% rating. The minimum they wanted us to pay to fix their mistake in this way was 50 pounds, but the only condenser machines on offer were 100 pounds.

As with many things from inaction by Ofgem to Fair rents and conditions for tenants. Not to forget Letting Agents Fees and charges to tenants!

My dryer was one affected. They came out to amend it after about 10 months but the damn thing has leaked water ever since so I suspect the whole machine was a lemon from day 1

There needs to be a new directive regarding company response to an exposed flaw in a product. Recall & replacement could run concurrently with return & money back. An interim instruction not to use is unsatisfactory, rather more designed to give breathing space to the manufacturer/ retailer than compensating the customer.

It seems to be something of a systemic problem. How many of the UK’s nuclear attack submarines are presently operational? A different order of magnitude , but like Birmingham Trading standards, it needs fixing.

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Off topic!¬ However, as one who does not subscribe to a nuclear “deterrent” – because one false move could be disastrous and i think human life should not be put at risk in that way – the longer nuclear subs are out of active service the better. Back to topic – let’s put Whirlpool in charge of their repair. 🙁

Ken.Wilkinson says:
22 February 2017

Whirlpool have a history in denying product liability . In 1997, they found themselves on BBC Watchdog due to their denial of systematic problems with a number of their cookers. Seems lessons remain to be learned.

I remember that. I had then recently acquired a house with a built-in Whirlpool cooker. Luckily mine was not affected.

David Martin says:
22 February 2017

After being alerted to a potential fire risk in December 2015, I registered my machine for repair and was given an 8 week time span. Delays ensued but in June 2016 an engineer called to assess my needs. When the parts arrived he returned and fitted same in July. Not exactly the response one might expect to a fire hazard which could endanger life and limb, but at least the machine was fixed.
Is there any truth in the news that “Speedy Gonzalez” has been hired by Whirlpool?

Andrea says:
22 February 2017

I had one fire risk dryers was only 13 month old paid 299.99 and I Wundt use it so had pay further 100.00 pound for a replacement one which I did so nice see yous looking after public fab work guys at which

Should everyone be looking forward and avoid purchasing all products from this group of companies, get the word out to friends, colleagues and family, even start a campaign to boycott their products, it will hit them harder than words?

Total no brainer. I hope the regulatory authorities are not going the same way as the US where they bow to the wishes of the large commercial enterprises wishes and play dead rather than upset them. Sod that peoples lives are at risk I draw the line at potential death from their negligence. Cannot understand why Authorities dragging their feet on something so obvious unless of course they will argue we have not got the staff and time as we have been cut back. As far as dangerous killer machines are concerned there is nothing that is more important on their agenda…..or the lazy Government. It was the same with the car fire faults they have to be kicked up the backside to get off their bums.

At last something may happen. I have one of the Hotpoint driers that is affected and have had a number of letters which have offered me a new machine for£99 which I have declined, I am due for the modification to be carried out in March (this was promised last August) but as yet no action so maybe, just maybe the issue will be resolved sometime this year !

Debbie says:
22 February 2017

I had an engineer to come out to my dryer. He stated that mine had been fixed at the factory as it had this sticker on it. He decided to check just to make sure, to find that even though it had the sticker on to say it had been fixed to find out that actually they hadn’t. So people could be calling out an engineer for them to see the sticker and not bother to check, as that is what they have to look for. So even though people feel that they are safe as their machine has been checked, is not necessarily true!!! More cutting corners to save money but they are still putting families lives at risk. But what do they care!!! It’s not their family in danger!!!

Laurence Taylor says:
23 February 2017

If this is the case it’s a disgrace, surely they can trance whoever was supposed to have carried this out at the factory and the management team responsible, they need to face upi to what they have failed to do and pay the consequences, live are at risk here!!!!

I agree with Ahmet. Complaints are difficult to convey by phone. I recently tried to speak to an advisor in person but I was directed round and round in circles until I finally gave up! My gripe is “Why is so much responsibility thrown onto councils? The government makes the laws, sets up procedures and departments to deal with Health and Safety but doesn’t follow through when people fail to do their jobs.

I am told my Indesit dryer is safe, but am worried about my washer, also Indesit. We had it a short time when it stopped working. I had it repaired locally by an electrican who said thar he had the official parts. When he showed me the faulty part, it was a small cube of plastic joining two sets of wires, with no covering. There was nothing to keep the damp out of the connection. The plastic was melted, mostly on one side, and it looked like it could have caused a fire. The wires had also burnt out on one side. The repair man was cross when I started to ask if it was safe, and did not answer.
I called the makers a few times, but was always referred to the people dealing with the tumble driers. I could not speak to anyone about the washer. It was under a year old at the time.
We now use it as little as possible, but can’t really afford to replace it. Disappointed as it replaced a Idensit still working, but over 20 years old!
The retailer only took the money, and did not actually stock the machine, so I had to wait for the manufacturers to deliver, so I am not sure who would be liable.

Your consumer rights are against the retailer who sold you the washing machine, Margaret, but if the electrician has made a satisfactory repair and replaced the defective connector then I doubt whether the retailer would be willing to take any further action as your machine must now be presumed safe and in working order.

I would suggest you contact your local trading standards service and report the defect in your washing machine as it could be a fault that is common to the particular model and others in the range. Unlike in a tumble dryer, with a washing machine there should not be the same problem of fluff in contact with a heating element but it is worth reporting so it can be checked.

To find the address and e-mail address of your local trading standards office visit the Chartered Trading Standards Institute website, put in your postcode, and the details will come up ~
https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/support-advice
For telephone contact the number given is for Citizens Advice which acts as the gatekeeper for trading standards but I recommend an e-mail contact so that you can keep a record of your report, it will go direct to your local authority, and it will exist in undeniable form unlike a telephone message.

Barry Metcalfe says:
23 February 2017

WHEN will Whirlpool actually get round to making this recall? When all the machines are worn out?