/ Home & Energy

Why are we still waiting for Whirlpool to sort this mess out?

burnt tumble dryer

It’s nearly a year on since the news broke that some Whirlpool dryers are at risk of catching fire. So how much longer will you have to wait for Whirlpool to replace a fire risk tumble dryer in your home?

In November last year, Whirlpool announced many of the 5.3 million Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers sold were at risk of catching fire. You’d think Whirlpool would act faster to make sure unsafe products we fixed or replaced.

Our research revealed multiple failings by Whirlpool in dealing with their customers, leaving people feeling they’ve been failed – more than half of the affected customers we surveyed felt dissatisfied with the way Whirlpool handled this situation.

Fire risk dryers

So far, we’ve heard from hundreds of you on Which? Conversation who told us about how little is being done to fix your unsafe machine. Some of you have found an agreeable resolution with Whirlpool. But the fact remains that far too many are living with unsafe tumble dryers.

People like John Wood. John returned home from work to find his house on fire. The fire, caused by a faulty Hotpoint dryer, destroyed his kitchen and sadly his dog later died of smoke inhalation.

John’s insurance company refused to pay out because the tumble dryer was left on unattended and therefore against manufacturer instructions. Understandably, John feels very strongly that not enough is being done to highlight tumble dryer faults.

Further to this, another fire sparked in an 18 storey tower block in west London was caused by a faulty tumble dryer, an investigation published last week by London Fire Brigade found.

In light of the London Fire Brigade’s recent investigation, if you have an affected tumble dryer, our advice is to stop using it until it has been repaired or replaced. If you’re not sure this includes your dryer, all the affected models we know about are here: www.which.co.uk/productrecall

Time for action

We’ve been pushing for action from Whirlpool. Back in May, we asked Whirlpool to train its call centre staff to offer better advice to affected customers and speed up the process for registration. We’re still waiting for Whirlpool to publish a full list of model numbers of the 127 affected products on the front page of their website.

Whirlpool needs to be held to account for how it’s treating its customers. We want the government to urgently review the Whirlpool case and set out how it’s going to improve the product safety system for all consumers.

Tell us, are you still waiting for Whirlpool to sort your tumble dryer out? Do you think it’s time Whirlpool issued you a refund?

Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns at Which?, appeared on BBC One’s Rip Off Britain this morning to talk about Whirlpool, the programme will be available to view on the BBC iPlayer later today.

Comments

I have a Hotpoint model CTD85A and had the required modification done by one of their service engineers.
One of the tasks involved replacing the drum for a smaller one so that the full modification could be done. At the time I asked the engineer if this full modification would prevent the machine catching fire in future assuming you made sure to clean the lint filter and also the condenser. He was non commital and said this is the required modification.
I have subsequently seen a report on the Internet where a modified machine caught fire after the engineer left and due to this have taken the precaution of placing a smoke alarm above the machine and do not leave it running if I am away from my property. I also clean the lint filter and condenser after use.
I have contacted Hotpoint, which as a side issue is not an easy task and asked if the full modification will prevent the dryer going on fire and to give a plain answer…..Yes or No. Like the engineer they have been non
commital and merely pointed out that , quote, ”With regards to the drum being replaced sometimes this has been replaced due to your current drum not being compatible with the modification, there has also been added a mechanical pin at the rear of the drum this has been tested and does prevent the lint build up in the area where the potential fault could develop along with a new style of bearing”. Regardless of this they have still not given an answer to my my plain question will it catch fire even though modified…..Yes or No.
I also asked why I was not given the option of a replacement machine at my cost of around £95 instead of the modification. No reply on that question which was asked last week.

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Duncan….I would have thought it would have been very easy for Hotpoint/Whirlpool to let owners of modified machines know what mods had been done and why. More importantly a statement issued to say the machine was now safe to use assuming all relevant cleaning of filters etc are done by the owner. None of this has been done and points to a lack of joined up thinking on their part or a lack of quality control or worst still lack of confidence in what has been done

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Duncan….I have emailed Hotpoint/Whirlpool with following message….Quote ”The more effort you make to not reply just goes to heap up more evidence that Hotpoint have a poor customer service. This appalling lack of communication is going to be fed back to one of the main consumer groups who have a short name starting with the letter W and also TV consumer programme which also starts with the letter W”.

Worth a try – you never know what might help your case.

Ontos, trouble is neither W has been of any direct help in the last 12 months. The other W is struggling with millions of rectification jobs and I doubt if a WW threat will improve matters. Even the government has written to them. Has that helped?

Elizabeth Atkinson says:
28 October 2016

I am really impressed with the service I received from whirlpool. After reporting my faulty appliance I had an email from whirlpool acknowledging my contact with them. They explained that and engineer would be sent but due to the high number of faults to be rectified they could not state when it would be. The advice was, in the meantime, to ensure the filters were cleaned after every use and not leave the house when in use. Very shortly after this I received another email offering me the opportunity to wait for the repair or exchange my faulty drier for a brand new one at the hugely discounted price of £49.00! Needless to say I took them up on the offer and within 2 weeks had exchanged my faulty, 5 year old drier for a new one. Very pleased.

Alastair Howatson says:
9 November 2016

I share Elizabeth Atkinson’s approval of Whirlpool’s service – not perfect but good considering the task they face. Because we find our Indesit dryer to perform extremely well (like our previous Creda, and unlike the more expensive and pretentious Bosch that we have also used) we opted for the modification. It was done today; the technicians came when they said they would. It’s possible of course that there’s still a fire risk, but I have no reason to think so and it’s a rare appliance which is wholly foolproof against users who deliberately ignore satety advice. Instead of castigating Whirlpool it could be more profitable to find out more about the engineers who designed the faulty machines in the first place.

Maybe those who have lost their homes in fires might not agree, Alastair. Companies must ensure or insure themselves against the possibility that this sort of problem could happen so that action can be taken promptly.

My view is that with conventional tumble dryers, an interlock to prevent the machine operating without cleaning the filter could have removed much of the risk. You won’t find many washing machines that don’t have an interlock to prevent the door being opened during use. The Whirlpool machines are at a greater risk of fire but fires were happening long before. I recall installing my mother’s new Zanussi dryer in the garage rather than the kitchen because I was aware of a slight fire risk, though I did not know the reason at the time.

I agree Alastair. When we find a product that should comply with international safety standards but fails we need to find out why. That way we can see whether there are improvements that could be incorporated in these mandatory standards to ensure future appliances are safer.

I would also like to know exactly why Indesit driers are more prone to failure than other makes – did they perhaps not meet these safety standards in the first place? I’ve asked Which? to examine and test faulty appliances to check this but so far with no sign of any interest.

“Lessons can only be learned” (a much overused phrase designed to cover up incompetence) if we bother to do the bit of work necessary.

David Roberts says:
22 October 2016

I registered my Indesit dryer for modification in February 2016.After weeks of trying to get Indesit to arrange a date they promised to send an engineer in June.This did not happen and in the meantime I received numerous calls offering a discount on a new machine.In July I was placed on a priority list. After many calls in the meantime A date was set for 22nd September.This date was confirmed and the engineer confirmed he would arrive in the morning and guess what he failed to arrive.After further calls,many of which took at least 30 mins and no apology a date was arranged for a week later and the machine modifeg

Referring to comments made on the wrong Convo – CO monitors –

It would be useful if people contacted Peterborough Trading Standards and/or the BIS Committee with comments about Whirlpools actions. Nothing will happen through a Convo. Which? could tell us if it is taking any action based on suggestions made.

I don’t really understand the obsession with expensive heat pump dryers. The vast majority of conventional tumble dryers (apart from the Indesit and rebrands) work perfectly well. We have to be realistic about what will be achieved. Compensation is, in my view, due to people who have been kept waiting for repairs.

Incidentally, does anyone know exactly what modifications are being made?

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Malcolm – There is a long history of tumble dryer fires. When my mother bought one in the early 70s I said that it should go into the garage because I was aware of a fire risk, probably through reading New Scientist. One of the few times I remember reprimanding my mother was when I realised that she was not cleaning the filter regularly. Have a look at the links provided by Duncan and do some Google searches and you may find that it is not just Whirlpool machines that can cause fires.

The comment about an ‘obsession’ with heat pump tumble dryers seems to relate to my comments. I want to save people losing their homes, even their lives.

I have not seen an official description of the modification of the potentially dangerous dryers. I have seen references to removal of accumulated lint, replacement of the rear panel and installation of a rivet to prevent accumulation of lint.

Which? should be doing this, if it is important, don’t you think duncan?

“There is a long history of tumble dryer fires”. There are many other causes of domestic fires:
Looking a t one years stats:
Fridge freezer 333; Dishwasher 383; TV 243; Washing Machine 736; Tumble dryer 719.
Smoking 3246; Candles 1128; Cookers 12591; Grill/toaster 3060; Microwave 1316; Heating equipment 1527; electricity supply 3436.

Quite a lot of problems to address as well as tumble dryers.

Lets keep the suggestions coming in to reduce the likelihood of dryer and other fires that Which? might develop and try to take some action.

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Duncan, I think you are inflating this beyond all reasonableness. All that is being proposed is that Which? gets hold of some operational dryers awaiting their repair, takes them to pieces under laboratory conditions in order to try to find out why they could catch fire, and then reports its findings. Or am I missing something? The international machinations of Whirlpool are no doubt interesting to some but – since the only solution to the problem is going to have to come from Whirlpool – isn’t it better to concentrate on the practicalities of achieving that rather than speculating on possible external factors. If Which? doesn’t do what has been suggested I would not ascribe ulterior or sinister motives to that decision. I agree with you that if Which? did expose the truth in a responsible way it would earn a great deal of respect, far more than from some amateur exercise.

Having, many months ago, looked at the international safety standard for tumble dryers and looked at the clause regarding “flammability” it crossed my mind that maybe this was an area to look at in the affected Indestit – and branded – driers. So I asked Which? if they would retrieve an affected drier (or more) from a current user(s) and have it tested to see whether or not it complied with the standard. Essentially one aspect is whether constructional materials close to the heating element on which fluff could settle would themselves burn.

I asked them first in Convos, then repeatedly on the Members’ Community (forum), and then by letter. They have not answered this question. I have written to the BIS Committee – chair Iain Wright MP – to ask the same question. No response (yet, but only a month ago). I would have asked Peterborough Trading Standards if I could have got through to them.

If it failed the test that would be very serious, as dryers would have been illegaly sold on the EU market. If it did pass, then by examining the dryer we might find some clues as to how its construction (and that of other dryers) could be improved. Tackling the BSI Committee dealing with this would be, to me, the obvious way.

I wonder – others might – why such suggestions are totally ignored. It’s a year in to the problem. It is shameful consumers have not been helped more.

I wonder why any manufacturer would choose to use flammable components anywhere within the system through which air circulates, let alone near a powerful heater. I wonder why they commonly use plastic control panels and sometimes plastic top panels on household appliances, whereas steel would be a safer choice and could contain a fire if it does start by limiting the amount of oxygen available to support combustion.

I would like to know why the relevant standards for appliances do not forbid use of plastics where they could compromise safety. Has the competency of the relevant BSI Committee been assessed?

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Plastics can and are made non-flammable.

Thanks Duncan. I had assumed that cost was the reason and what you say makes sense. I am very disappointed that my new washing machine has a large plastic control panel. I hope there is metal behind but I have not detected it with a magnet.

I have old fan heaters and the cases are metal. At work our safety officer found and confiscated a plastic fan heater with part of the front grille missing and the rest brown and at risk of disintegrating due to heat. It belonged to a research student who had been working late in the evening when the heating was off.

Malcolm – I have no expertise in the flammability or otherwise of plastic, but I have seen many photos of appliances with plastic panels that have burned or melted, thus preventing containment of an internal fire. Why is this happening if non-flammable plastics are available?

The tooling for 3 dimensional plastics mouldings, like pressed steel dies, are very expensive and the injection or compression moulding machines also. Extrusion only makes 2 dimensional sections with little scope for all the inbuilt locators, fixings and other bits and pieces that a plastic moulding can, and does, include. There is intense competition in making both the tools and the parts keeping the prices contained. That is why we can have relatively cheap complex devices.

Thermoplastics will deform when hot. Thermosets unlikely to. Additives to the plastic prevent supporting combustion. We need to stop the cause of the internal fire (wherever possible) which is why I would like someone to tell us exactly what the Indesit problem is and what remedy is being made. When we know the facts we can better assess possible solutions.

It is difficult to eliminate the risk of internal fire and in the case of tumble dryers there could be a substantial amount of accumulated lint that may contain flammable organic materials including the grease that remains on fibres after washing and the chemicals present in fabric conditioners that function by adhering to fabrics.

If the tumble dryer is effectively a closed steel box, an internal fire would be contained. In the case of a vented tumble dryer, obviously there is a continuous flow of air, but having an external vent duct made of steel or flexible corrugated stainless steel would be a much safer option than using aluminium or plastic ducting – which I believe are still in common use.

In my younger days I built and designed electronic items for my own use and for friends. With mains powered items my rule was always to use a closed metal case to ensure that any fire was contained. (I’m still using a couple of power supplies that I built as a student.) I always included one or more internal fuses, a feature often missing from commercial products at the time. I knew other hobbyists that adopted the same precautions.

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I think the consumer’s desire for nice looking machines has something to do with it and that is easier to achieve with plastic mouldings.

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I agree. Appearance and price are important factors in marketing. I am encouraged by the number of people that know about the ongoing problems with tumble dryers but I wonder how many might think about safety of appliances when buying them. I’m pleased that no-one has suggested that we buy ‘reputable brands’ because cheap products should not be less safe than expensive ones.

Malcolm – I inherited a Bosch dishwasher when I moved home and my first concern was that it could be one of around half a million machines that had been recalled because they could cause a fire. Apparently the problem was a faulty solder connection behind the plastic control panel, and there are various photos showing that the plastic can burn. Fortunately my machine pre-dates the problem. I am surprised that the voltages and currents involved are sufficient to cause a problem in a control panel and better design should eliminate this risk.

Moulded thermoplastics used in enclosures for consumer units (also known as distribution units and fuse boxes) have a cause for concern because of an increasing number of fires and concerns about toxic fumes. The relevant standard has been amended and according to the article I read, steel is mentioned as suitable non-combustible material.

I am disappointed that use of inadequately tested plastic casings is compromising the safety of our homes. With luck the Whirlpool tumble dryer problem might be a trigger to look at the design of all domestic appliances.

wavechange, I keep asking for Indesit et al dryers to be tested and examined for this very reason. It is the positive way forward.

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I agree, Malcolm. It makes sense to focus on the greatest problem, though I hope that we can agree that there seems to be a general problem with inappropriate use of plastics in household products.

On a related matter, I am very disappointed that the IET Wiring Regulations are not freely available. There are many technically minded people who could use them to establish if their homes meet current standards and keep an eye on the standard of work done by tradesmen. I appreciate that it costs money to produce these documents but my view – as with British Standards – it is not difficult to find an alternative way of funding that allows free access.

Duncan – Often we don’t get much detail about design faults that can lead to fires. This brief description relates to an historic problem with Beko fridges: “Condensation can cause a short-circuit, which may ignite plastic components and other highly flammable insulation inside the appliance.” There was a more recent problem affecting Samsung fridge-freezers, where there were cases of the defrost timer setting light to the plastic enclosure. On the other hand, failed compressors don’t usually create a fire risk because they are in a sealed metal box.

Use of pentane as refrigerant does not seem to be a brilliant choice because it is as flammable as LPG, but it is commonly used in fridges and freezers. These appliances have a closed system, but gas leaks are a common fault, often caused by vibration. I hope that the relevant standard forbids use of soft solders, which would melt in a fire, releasing a considerable volume of flammable gas.

I’ve still got my 1970s issues of PE and I know what you are talking about. 🙂

The IET regulations – BS 7671:2008 +A3 2015 cover both domestic and industrial wiring matters in great detail. You need a good understanding of the principles before using them and they are intended for trained professional users. however you can buy a book “Electrical wiring for domestic installations” taken from the IET Regs for £12.39. Not much for those who have an interest. However, it is pointed out that it (and handling electrical work) is for qualified people, not diy. If someone is qualified they will have the full regs (well, they should).

My road into standards does not give me access to the IET Regs. Maybe your library has a copy.

I have consulted these regulations on various occasions, Malcolm. The book you referred to may be useful, as are the publicly available Part P regulations, but it does not alter the need for the entire regulations that affect our safety to be readily available to the general public. I believe that my nearest major library does indeed have a copy because that’s what they thought I wanted when I asked to look at British Standards.

You would not want to deny anyone education, so why deny them access to information to standards and regulations?

How many of the general population would have the expertise to understand the IET Wiring Regs. They are not a list of things to do, as you know, but a complex interrelated set of requirements that need training to understand. They are available to all, but you have to pay for them or look at them in your library. And why would they need to know all about industrial regulations? That is why a £12.39 book that deals with the domestic side should be adequate for most interested people. Hardly going to break the bank.

Which? magazines are a very valuable resource – far more useful to the vast majority than the Wiring Regs. Should we make them free for everybody?

In my view, Whirlpool is unfit to run a business and should be instructed to compensate the owners of affected machines that have not been modified or replaced. I suggest that the compensation is sufficient to let them buy a heat pump drier, assuming that this is the safest optiHere is a recent report that questions the advice from Whirlpool that it is OK to use machines of the type that have caused many fires: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fire-chiefs-demand-whirlpool-recall-8989132

How long do we carry on allowing business to make decisions that affect public safety?

Mr Ole Constantine says:
23 October 2016

Bought my Indesit in July 15 and after learning of the problem, registered Dec 24 and received confirmation that the earliest date for an engineer would be June 2016! Heard nothing in the intervening months, so in the last week of June I began to worry, so telephoned Hotpoint and to my surprise I was immediately given a visit date of July 13th 2016. Day came and engineer completed his task. Relief, it was always a worry when using the tumble drier, but was re-assured by the engineer that all was ok.

We had our Hotpoint Futura dryer modified recently. I was pleased to see there was no lint in the danger area even though the machine is more than two years old and is used quite a lot.
The engineer commented that if users follow the instruction to clean the filter after each use, to ensure that the filter is correctly fitted back in place after cleaning and periodically check that vent tube is clear, there may not have been any fire problems.
He also observed that some machines he had seen looked as though the owners had never cleaned the filters and was amazed their clothes ever dried.
I agree that Whirlpool have dragged their feet over this but wonder if part of the problem has been that owners are not maintaining their machines properly.

A Austin, it is always encouraging to see commenters posting with positive experiences. I think the tendency with this kind of discussion forum – Convos particularly – is those with problems are more vocal than those without.

I, too, would not be surprised to find a good number of problems are down to lack of cleaning and ignoring instructions. We all suffer from that. I should drain the petrol out of my lawn mower before putting it away for the winter, but don’t. I should check the drain at the back of my fridge is cleared regularly, but rarely look at it. I should top up my water softener with salt regularly, but instead regularly forget.

However my aim would be to ensure that lack of maintenance does not lead to a dangerous situation. I hope we learn, by examining the design problems of Indesit dryers and their consequences, to improve dryer safety for all – including for those who abuse them. Amendments to the international safety standard can do this; the standards are constantly under review and appropriate changes are a natural process.

I agree with Malcolm that it is useful to have input that can add balance.

Some maintenance is essential. If a tumble dryer filter is not cleaned routinely, lint builds up and reduces air flow that helps prevent lint deposition where it could be dangerous. Some sort of interlock that prevents a tumble dryer operating until the filter has been cleaned is essential, in my view. For many years we have had interlocks that prevent washing machines and microwave ovens from being started before the door has been closed or opened while they are operating, so it is disappointing that this has not been done with tumble dryers.

Malcolm – It’s recommended but not essential to drain petrol from lawnmowers etc. I just shut off the fuel and let the engine run until it stops to empty the carburettor. I don’t use my 70s Honda generator very often these days but when we had a power cut it started easily and ran fine on 5 year old petrol. I deliberately keep the tank full so that it is ready for immediate use.

Be warned: even if you think they’ve fixed your machine, they may not have done.

As soon as we first heard about the problem, in November 2015, we applied for the fix. The engineer came in late January or early February, if I recall. He made the modification – or so we thought – and asked whether he could help with anything else. We mentioned the drier had a fault with detecting when its water reservoir needed emptying. He couldn’t fix that, so started the process for making another booking to fix it.

The second engineer turned up in due course, started work on the problem, and told us, to our amazement, that the safety modification had not been made. He did it then and there. So, good for him, but worrying that at least one engineer is claiming to do these things and not doing them.

As a final footnote, in October, we had another letter saying our drier could be at risk. So Whirlpool don’t seem to be keeping track of who’s been done and who hasn’t.

Or maybe ours hasn’t been done even after two engineer visits. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

@jbamforth, jen, to campaign on this issue and to discuss it effectively we would benefit from salient facts.
For example:
– do Which? know what modifications are being made to faulty dryers?
– do Which? know what these modifications actually do to prevent further fires?
– have Which? examined and tested a faulty machine, or seen independent test results, that show total compliance with the BS EN safety standard, particularly flammability of constructional materials?
– if not will they acquire and test sample(s)?

Something I presume has a simple answer but find curious. Why are some Indesit et al dryers marked with a green spot that show they are not affected? I presume this was applied at manufacture or at the distributors. Are these dryers of a different design? Were they made in a different factory? How are they different?

If I’ve missed these answers among the various Convos I’m sorry.

David Becker says:
24 October 2016

I registered my HOtpoint dryer in December 2015 and after 2 failed visits by HOtpoint engineers eventually the modifications were completed in September 2016. As far as I know they were successfully. Idid however think that I might have been better taking the matter to law under the provisions of the Sale of Goods Act (unfit for purpose etc etc ). I am not aware however whether this has been attempted successfully or otherwise .Do you know ?

I took yet another look at the standards that govern the safety of “Household and similar electrical appliances” The “umbrella” document with general requirements is BSEN 60335-1 2012 +A11 2014. The standard that develops these requirements specifically for electric household tumble dryers is BS EN 60335-2-11 + A1 2015.

Part 1: Cl 30.2 covering all appliances says parts of non-metallic material shall be resistant to ignition and spread of fire (unless they are unlikely to be ignited by flames within the appliance, e.g. may be knobs, decorative trim)
Part 2-11 specific to dryers :
Cl 11 – Heating – to be tested with all lint traps 50% blocked
Cl 19 – Abnormal operation – controls that limit temperature and all self-resetting thermal cut outs that protect the heating elements short circuited for the test
Condenser dryers – air outlet 75% blocked for the test
Drum drive belt removed.
Air circulation stopped

Just adding to information. These are extensive documents with comprehensive tests.

Thanks Malcolm, but please can you check and see if there is any requirement for appliance casings to be made of material that will contain a fire that develops as a result of electrical faults and – in the case of tumble dryers – ignition of accumulated lint.

Self-resetting thermal cutouts are the first line of protection but non-resettable ones (thermal fuses) are needed in case the contacts of the former devices weld – a common result of repeated operation. Taking an example that will be familiar to you, the contacts of glow-starters used in older fluorescent lighting fixtures often weld, betrayed by the tube glowing at both ends. At least some tumble dryers do use thermal fuses from looking at the websites mentioned by Duncan.

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The tests include ensuring that resettable thermal cut outs, if short cicuited (welded closed), do not cause a problem.

I am not an expert, just looking at the standard’s requirements. The main emphasis on the section on “resistance to heat and fire” seems to be, and to my mind should be, to prevent fire by ensuring appropriate materials and components are used and tested under both normal, and fault, conditions and to contain its effects as I referred to earlier. You would have to ask an expert on the BSI Committee about this; my suspicion would be that based on long development of safety standards it is about minimising the degree of risk of an unsafe occurrence and its consequences.

I would have hoped that Which?, who raise these issues and are one of the consumer’s representatives, would have the expertise and information to contribute to the BSI Committees on these sorts of matters. Maybe they do, but they don’t appear on the list of members I have seen. It is possible they contribute through another representative.

If a BS EN is examoned (Part 1 of this standard extends to 196pp of detailed requirements and tests) the value and practicality of standards will be appreciated. They are not written from a desk based on theory, but are written and reviewed by people with practical knowledge who are directly involved.

Thats’ my understanding too, Duncan.

Somewhere I have a couple of specialist books on plastics from when was involved with mechanical testing, but I don’t know if they cover flammability.

Specific tests (needle flame, hot wire for example) have to be carried out to demonstrate compliance. These tests and the interpretation of the results are specified in other standards – BS EN 60695-X-X. These show what they mean by resistant. Essentially the material, under the test conditions prescribed, should not support combustion when the test source (of an appropriate temperature) is removed.

There is no “devil” in the wording; standards are precise about what their wording means. Standards require, and use, precise descriptions. So your example of a water-resistant watch is not a description derived from a Standard. A Standard would require an IP (Ingress Protection) description, such as resistant to falling water (e.g. rain) through to submersible, and at different depths. Each has a precise set of tests, and each is given a symbol (number) to show exactly what it is in compliance with.

The tests on, for example plastics, for fire resistance are done under specific conditions. These are related to the conditions, in a fault situation, that a product is likely to have to endure. Of course materials will burn – but not if the conditions that cause it are not likely to arise.

The aircraft industry relies on safety standards produced in the same system. presumably NASA relies on many of these.

We need some common sense as well as standards. Tumble dryers have been causing fires long before the Whirlpool models were introduced. Either the standards are not adequate for the purpose or the manufacturers are not producing compliant products.

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IP44 ‘blue plugs’ and sockets are widely used outdoors. I assume that they comply with the relevant standard but some designs are much better than others. I have seen many encased in plastic boxes or even bags because they are not fit for the purpose they are sold for.

Any ideas that can be shown to be genuinely useful can be put to Which? (I presume) to put to the BSI Committee. Standards are what all relevant EU products must conform to, so good ideas need to be incorporated in them. We all think we have “good ideas” and “common sense” of course. Put them to the test by presenting them to the experts.

However we can never achieve total safety. Even aircraft crash (rarely) despite best efforts.

Test an Indesit-type dryer to see if it complies. That will resolve that issue. Otherwise we’ll just keep going round the houses.

This has left the Whirlpool topic as I doubt many – if any – use their tumble dryer plugged in to an outside socket.

The IP rating is accompanied by stringent and specific tests. IP44 means the unit cannot be penetrated by test objects greater than 1mm diameter – a piece of wire to protect against electric shock say – and is not affected by not just rain but by splashed water (a specific test again applies). For those interested ( 🙂 ) BS EN 60259 spells it all out. As has been said many times fraudulent products can make claims that are not met. Reputable products will meet what they say.

I am simply giving an example of how we can be let down by standards and I am not referring to counterfeit products.

It isn’t the Standard that has let you down. It is the product supplier if the item does not conform to the Standard. The Standard does not tell you how to build a product to meet certain requirements. It tells you exactly how to test the product to see if it does meet those requirement.

I have an Indesit IDV75UK. I contacted Indesit in November 2015 and was told that a repair would be made by March 2016. Nothing has happened to date and November is 7 days away.
Why would anyone buy an Indesit product if this is the service you get.

Further to the various discussions of fire damage and/or combustion of plastics, the photo at the top of this Convo seems to show one example of a fire damaged tumble drier with its plastic parts in a fire damaged but largely non-combusted state.

Although the photo may actually be from a fire caused by something other than the featured drier, I think it is possible to see that the plastic drier parts have done a better job of withstanding the fire than the worktop above it. The latter shows much greater evidence of charring – i.e. evidence of actual combustion.

Back in the day, when I worked for a time at Metal Castings (Worcester) Ltd, we (or at least my co-workers in the zinc foundry) used to die cast equivalent parts in a zinc based alloy. As part of the finishing process, these parts were usually chrome plated. As others have noted, I expect that cost and durability issues now favour the use of plastic for such parts in place of relatively brittle cast zinc alloy.

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Zinc diecastings were a very good way of producing complex and detailed parts – providing they were correctly used, as with any component. Plastic injection mouldings have replaced them in many applications but they still have good uses.

Thanks for joining us, Derek. I wondered about the photo used in this Convo. It appears in the Mail Online, which indicates that it is a Hotpoint machine that was responsible for fire last year. It it was the cause of the fire, it still has failed to contain it and we can only guess where the flames emerged and spread the fire.

The plastics do not appear to have ignited, as Derek P points out.

I have done a small experiment to investigate the flammability of plastics used in products containing powerful heaters. I cut slivers of plastic from a Hotpoint fridge, a Miele washing machine, an old Bosch dishwasher and a Russell Hobbs kettle. In the case of the metal kettle, the sample was from the plastic base, which is close to the heater. The sample from the kettle burned rapidly without smoke. The other samples burned rapidly and produced considerable smoke.

I see this simple test as ample evidence that we are being sold potentially dangerous products. I suggest that anyone who would like to carry out similar tests do so outdoors to avoid setting light to anything or inhaling fumes that could be toxic.

Plastics are extremely valuable materials for many purposes but I remain to be convinced that they can contain fires in appliances or are suitable for use near any electric heater.

The household appliance standard makes quite clear the characteristics of non-metallic materials required used in different parts of the appliance. Those where a fire could occur are required to meet flammability tests. Those that will not be in contact with a fire do not have to. Simply ignoring the standards, thought through carefully, to try to make a point is not really a positive way. As I have said elsewhere, if anyone has positive points to make about standards, BSI Committee CPL /61 can easily be approached with concerns or if you wish to challenge a standard. Have you made this approach?

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What we need is action, not words, and properly thought-through justifiable proposals. Have a look at the standards to see what they consist of.

Malcolm – I am still investigating the problem at present. As I have said repeatedly, it’s vital that appliances are designed to contain a fire that starts inside. I appreciate the need for standards but I think that my tests show that something is very wrong. How about doing your own tests and reporting back?

Duncan – Thanks for the support. The next plastic case I have sampled was the case of a Mem consumer unit, which is probably of the type that no longer meets the requirements for new installations because of fire risk. A sliver of the plastic burned producing copious smoke but then self-extinguished.

wavechange, if you believe you have products that are not compliant with the appropriate Standards then report them to Trading Standards. The testing required by standards is very carefully defined and thorough; the requirements are directed to suit the particular products. Ad hoc testing is no substitute for doing it correctly. I don’t expect Which? to make uncontrolled tests on products – they use properly equipped labs and test to the appropriate standards, (we assume).

If you look at the standards next time you visit the library, .look at the tests – lots of pages of detail – to see what is involved in the equipment and procedures. None of us have those facilities.

As regards an appliance containing a fire that starts inside this is a matter for agreement based, no doubt, on practicality and risk. But not being an expert I would pose that question again to CPL/61. I’d suggest to discuss your concerns you ask them and get, hopefully, a more authoritative answer than might be given here – unless Which? could ask them to post on this Convo|?

I will tackle this as I see fit, Malcolm. I have no idea of whether my household goods meet the appropriate standards but the fact that the plastic burns merrily suggests that not all is well. If you would like us to work together, perhaps you could do your own ad hoc tests.

Testing should be properly conducted to give consistent results. I don’t see the point in conducting uncontrolled ad hoc tests when there are standards to show how to do all this properly, and in the correct context.

I am more than happy to put problems and suggestions to the knowledgeable people who deal with standards and to cooperate with anyone to make progress. As Which? lead these Convos I would really hope they will take an interest and lead on this approach also. Better to work as a team than each do out own thing when we have a consumers association to act with and for us.

Yes Malcolm. 🙁 I have published dozens of papers and reviews – one with nearly 2000 citations by others. I do know how to conduct proper scientific investigations and to communicate the results and conclusions. 🙂 You may remember that I encouraged you to make contact with the people who deal with standards since you are the one who seems to have easy access to current information regarding standards.

In a tumble drier fire caused by an overloaded filter, my guess is that the “material first ignited” would either be any clothes in the drier or the lint itself. Ignition will take place so long as the air temperature is high enough and so long as sufficient oxygen is present.

Normal air contains about 20% oxygen and the fault of “too much lint in the filter” will provide and a reduction in the airflow rate over the heater. In the absence of sophisticated heater controls, that may increase the air temperature until a value high enough to ensure ignition is reached.

If any material first ignited produces enough heat to exceed the ignition temperatures of other nearby materials – then the fire will spread.

Plastics are all hydrocarbon materials. Given high enough ignition temperatures, I’d expect them to all combust eventually. However, I’d also expect “fire resistant” plastics to be designed to have much higher ignition temperatures than other plastics.

For a fire to be self-sustaining in any material, the heat produced in its flames must be sufficient to raise unburnt material up to its ignition temperature – at at least as quickly as the material is consumed by fire. Otherwise the material can be ignited, but won’t sustain a fire.

(PS – I love the smell of combustion science in the morning!)

And I have a burning ambition to raise awareness of the stupidity of inappropriate use of plastics in household goods.

There is plenty of evidence that plastic parts of appliances fail to contain fires. Just search for “fire tumble dryer” and have a look at the photos. The control panel burns and so does the lid if this is plastic rather than metal. The door is another problem, but if the designer used a metal door, dryers would be safer.

With a vented tumble dryer, a lint fire, burning material could enter the duct between the machine. Common sense suggests that this should be metal, either fixed steel or flexible corrugated stainless steel. Aluminium is better than plastic but aluminium would not survive a serious fire.

Here are a couple of videos that explain the danger of using plastics:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_4vvq9PMt8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfExQ3mwBH8
I have no idea what sort of ducting is in use in UK dryer installations, but plastic vent hose is what I have found on a couple of UK websites offering spares.

“ambition to raise awareness”. Your ideas can be directed at those who can act on them as I have given links to earlier. That way awareness can be raised and suggestions considered.

DerekP, just to recap on tumble drier testing, this includes 50% blocked lint filters, the fan disabled, the drum rotation disabled, thermal cut-outs short circuited, condenser air outlet 75% blocked, over-voltage. A look at the Standards will show the degree of thought and detail that has been incorporated over the years, both through technical developments and experience.

It is not helpful to be disparaging about those who put together and maintain standards. They have done, and are doing, a huge amount to protect consumers. Perhaps Which? would ask a member of the BSI Committee responsible to contribute at some point.

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Misplaced post – please delete.

malcolm – thanks for that summary of the standard.

At face value it sounds quite good but nonetheless fires are occurring.

If the standard applies lie a car MoT, i.e. valid on the day of the test only, the problem may be how the long term reliability of the thermal cut outs is assured.

The old tumble drier that I used to own was quite prone to fan belt failures – so it relied on its thermal cut out then. Because it was an old machine, its “flue gases” exited via its metal door, where its (hard to ignore) lint filter was located. I cannot recollect it using any plastic parts other than for external control knobs and buttons.

Most thermal cutouts used to provide overheating protection are the resettable type, which is convenient but repeated operation can cause them to ‘fail to danger’, resulting in severe overheating and possibly fire. Hopefully modern appliances also have one or more ‘thermal fuse’, which are non-resettable and requires dismantling to replace them.

Fires can start for many reasons but the case of an appliance will help contain a fire by depriving it of oxygen. Since heat rises, the most critical parts of the case are those near the top. Some appliances have an open base, and once the integrity of the upper parts have been destroyed, further oxygen will be supplied from below, just like in an open fire.

In the past, appliances were steel cased. Looking at my 1982 washing machine, it has a steel lid and the control panel is metal, albeit thin aluminium mounted on plastic. Even the detergent dispenser has a metal front. The fridge, freezer and tumble dryer I had at that time were all metal cased. Now my fridge, freezer, washing machine and dishwasher all have plastic tops and the washing machine and dishwasher have plastic control panels. I believe that we could save lives by going back to steel cases.

Thanks to the invention of fridge magnets, at least we have continued to use steel for fridge and freezer doors.

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(Your first two sentences, Duncan) : Yes, but there are times when you can’t beat a good old bit of blind prejudice, bigotry, hypocrisy, and a narrow-minded attitude, which is why Which? Conversation is such a wonderful place.

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I wish that DeeKay was still with us, Duncan. Certainly he is an eccentric but he posted some relevant and useful comments on various topics. I recall, for example, that he mentioned that if the air inlet is near the base of a vented dryer it could draw in any lint that was dropped during cleaning of the filter, and that would be drawn into the heater. That’s something I had not considered but it is obvious that careful siting of the air intake is important. Kenneth W also gave some useful practical information.

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Why not drop a line to Patrick and you might be able to exchange email addresses. I have been in contact with other Convo members.

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A possible “good idea” is to use a heater at a lower temperature such that it could not easily ignite any lint. But I’d pass that to Which? for BSI to discuss because I don’t suppose it to be original. The principle should be to avoid ignition, and if it happens near the heater to ensure the materials nearby will not support combustion.

However, talking around these ideas is fine, but for progress to be made they have to be acted on. It is not just tumble dryers but all appliances and products that some might think, or find, as having potential safety issues. There needs to be a route to channel that sort of contribution. I think Which? has a responsibility to help with this and could, for example, nominate a small committee of knowledgeable people to whom we could direct these suggestions who would, in turn, consider them and when appropriate pass them to the appropriate organisations – such as BSI, Trading Standards, a Parliamentary Committee.

The heat pump dryer is an example of a heater at lower temperature, which should make it intrinsically safer. Perhaps that is a useful reference point. Some statistics for the different designs (heat pump, vented and condenser) of dryer would be revealing.

The reason I did my ad hoc tests on various items was because I think there may be a general problem.

I would love if Which? would look into this and I’m sure we all would.

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I only dip in now so have missed that facet of the repairs leading to very long drying times. Which? if it had an ounce of get and go would be in contact to get hold of those machines to test them. However Which? currently seems comprised of businessmen who perhaps have a different view of what the charity is about.

It is possible that the answer is the owners perception but then surely that makes it even more urgent that Which? does something positive and more to the point practical and hands on.

The most likely problem is that the vent hose has been crushed, restricting the air flow when the machine is pushed back into position.

I suspect that this sort of investigation is not considered within the remit of Which? and they see their role as one of informing the relevant organisations of concerns and communicating with subscribers and the public. If that’s the case then it would be nice if we were told. However, as with marketing, it’s normal not to say anything that conveys a negative view. There are some who think that this is acceptable.

Patrick, I find it very frustrating that Which? seems to report issues but does not properly investigate them to help improve matters. They have shown no interest (well, not visibly) in suggestions made about Whirlpool dryers. I hope I’m wrong.

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duncan, why should an organisation funded by consumers to act in their interests have to be “a type of government organisation”. it is not, and not what I expect.

As a Which? Member I want it to use my subscription to properly represent consumers and, if its findings are accurate and well-researched, it will be doing one of the jobs I expect of it. For example I want safe, durable, repairable products. I want honest services. I want to see cooperation with other consumer bodies so we don’t waste resources but get maximum consumer information and benefit. I want better consumer protection from public bodies – Trading Standards and the Government. I could list other “wants” but I’ve probably taken up enough space. That is for Which? These Convos are for all consumers to express views and they are very valuable – providing someone takes note of what is said and makes good use of comments.

I posted a couple of videos that highlight the danger of using plastic hoses on the exhaust of vented tumble dryers. Unfortunately I have not found any that relate to UK practice.

It is worrying that some hoses that look like metal are in fact plastic.

Here is an instruction manual for Whirlpool dryers sold in the US. There is some sensible advice regarding ducting of the exhaust out of the building: http://www.whirlpool.com/digitalassets/WEL98HEBU/Installation%20Instruction_EN.pdf

WARNING: To reduce the risk of fire, this dryer MUST BE EXHAUSTED OUTDOORS.
IMPORTANT: Observe all governing codes and ordinances. Dryer exhaust must not be connected into any gas vent, chimney, wall, ceiling, attic, crawlspace, or a concealed space of a building. Only rigid or flexible metal vent shall be used for exhausting.
4″ (102 mm)
4″ (102 mm) heavy metal exhaust vent
■ Only a 4″ (102 mm) heavy metal exhaust vent and clamps may be used.
■ Do not use plastic or metal foil vent.

It is made clear that a rigid metal vent is strongly preferred and various precautions are listed if it is necessary to use a flexible metal vent.

I may be wrong but it looks as if plastic vent tubes are common in the UK. I wonder what legislation we have regarding installation of dryers.

Perhaps it is time for the UK to catch up.

The Standard includes requirement for instructions for use and installation. This is not a UK standard – but a standard implemented by the UK, as it is in other countries. It stems from an IEC standard. IEC = International Electrotechnical Commission , the international conformity and assessment body for all fields of electrotechnology.

If we had easy access to this standard, the public would have the opportunity to see if their installations comply with requirements and to help identify where improvement may be necessary.

The “public” – i.e. consumers – is/are represented by the Consumers’ Association who could – should – be acting for them in this way. As Standards will not be free of charge in the foreseeable future, and places to see them are limited, would it not be better to pursue a course of action that is achievable and ask Which? to become (more?) involved in this?

I want to move forward, Malcolm. On several occasions I have explained why the public can benefit from free access to many scientific papers and reviews, thanks to people that would not accept the status quo.

As I have mentioned before, users of the Glasgow libraries enjoy free online access to British Standards Online: http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/libraries/the-mitchell-library/business-mitchell/british-standards/Pages/home.aspx

Edwin Sproston says:
25 October 2016

I reported my Indesit Tumble dryer as being affected by the refit approx 16 months ago, a few months after I bought it. Until last week I heard absolutely nothing apart from a one page letter saying I was on the list which arrived a few days after I registered. Last week out of the blue a Hotpoint representative phoned up and said they could repair it a couple of days later, which they have now done, taking approx 20 minutes. While I am glad the repair has been carried out as using the appliance made me extremely nervous, I must say that their attitude and communication skills are probably the worst I have ever experienced. Having lived in the USA for 20 years and owned Whirlpool appliances for much of this time, Whirlpools approach to service there was far superior, probably due to the american tougher consumer protection mentality ( there would have been class action lawsuits in every state had they been treated the way we seem to have been here in the UK). I think being offered the opportunity to jump the queue and to swap it at a cost for a replacement machine as a friend of mine did says it all for Hotpoint’s approach to customer service and is a blatant attempt to make the customer pay to fix a basic warranty problem. I will not buy any more of their products in the future.

I am not wishing to make any excuses for Whirlpool, Edwin, but I suspect in view of the scale of the tumble dryer problem they are using whatever remains of the Indesit/Hotpoint/Creda support services for much of the work in the UK. When companies get taken over, as Indesit etc were by Whirlpool, both the administrative and technical functions carry on as before for quite some time. Immediate changes take place in the driving seat but the basic vehicle and its passengers trundles on.

The Whirlpool problem involves nearly ten times as many machines as the recall of Bosch dishwashers some years ago, also sold under the Siemens and Neff brand names. I don’t remember complaints about the time taken to deal with the electrical problem in the doors. What did get publicity was the large number of machines that were not modified, either because the user did not know or maybe had sold or disposed of their dishwasher.

With some companies taking over so many brands, perhaps it is time to start assessing their fitness to cope with a recall if one should be necessary, in the same way that the CMA looks at takeovers and mergers in case of anti-competitive behaviour, etc.

That “10x as many machines” are involved is why I have been pressing for ages to have Indesit machines examined to find out what we can learn.

We have suggested a recall system that requires compulsory registration with basic contact details (and a no marketing pledge). Why is that so difficult to implement as a way forward?

Sorry but I don’t want to give companies my contact details. My trust has been betrayed too many times. I want to see product registration via an independent website with an alternative means of registration for those who do not use computers. Here are some advantages:

– Simple addition of new products using QR codes so that those with smartphones don’t need to copy model and serial numbers.
– Easy to review the list of products you own, purchase date (useful for CRA claims) and delete products that have been disposed of, given away or sold.
– The system would allow secondhand products to be added.
– Automatic notification of owner or user with details of recalls and other information by text, email, Facebook or whatever is convenient.

Manufacturers come and go, merge, change names, and get taken over. On many occasions, companies have respected my wishes for no marketing and then changed their mind. I have even had one company use my contact details for marketing because I have made a complaint about music played in their shop.

While I remember, we must put an end to the requirement to register with manufacturers to activate a free additional warranty.

I have not said you should give your details to companies. However a retailer will most likely be the one you deal with and giving them your details is what I had in mind. Most people are quite happy to do that. You could always opt out I suppose, but that would defeat the objective.

The point about making it compulsory is to ensure all who purchase products that might become unsafe can be contacted. Leaving it to individuals to visit a website, or to use “alternative means” will leave many who simply don’t bother. A recall system, as for cars, should be all-embracing.

If you wave a mobile phone at a QR code that should be sufficient to register the details, without visiting the website. It’s probably one of the best ways of engaging with younger people. I don’t want any scheme that encourages misuse of personal data, and that’s what is happening at the moment. Look at the way some companies offer incentives to get the hands on contact details.

Many don’t have such mobiles. We need, I believe, a system that registers all appliances automatically, irrespective of the technology or ability you might or might not possess. The retailer, online or physical, will have the relevant appliance details when you purchase; all they need is basic contact details and, as I said, not to use them for any other purpose. Many people give these details when they purchase anyway. The system will then need to ensure these details are passed to a suitable database run independently; not by the likes of Capita though.

I suppose if you feel so strongly about parting with your email or home address you could opt out and lose the chance of being notified of a recall. If you think it is a chance worth taking.

I did mention making provision for those without computers and the same system could be used for those without smartphones. I’ve been putting QR codes on posters and banners for years and many do use them. You will find them in magazines, advertising and even beermats. Until my avatar had its corners cut to make it round (it was originally square) it used take the curious to this website.

I used to keep up to date on recalls thanks to RecallUK but the charity had to close its very useful website. I subscribe to Electrical Safety First, another charity, that sends alerts about recalls. Today it was circuit breakers and computer power supplies. I’ve informed quite a number of friends about the Whirlpool problems. I have read that recalls sometimes don’t get through when people have registered products and have certainly seen examples.

Given that nearly everyone who buys major appliances and home equipment has to have it delivered the retailer usually has all the data they need to register the product. They could offer to do that for us. That would avoid me having to plough through silly lifestyle questions making sure I have checked the right boxes with a tick or a cross looking out for the negative interrogatives along the way. It would also mean that I wouldn’t have to pull the appliance away from the wall again because I had not made a prior note of its serial number. I would prefer the data to go to a central registry but I have no evidence that any of the product registrations I have made have led to any follow-up marketing or nuisance calls [except in the case of warranties where there is usually an offer of an extension after a year or two which I don’t mind as I probably would not have thought of it myself. I always decline and have never been pursued.]

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I’m glad that I’m not the only one who ends up pulling out appliances to find the serial number etc. How difficult would it for the appliance industry to have an international summit and agree on where to put them.

Duncan – I’m well aware of the problem, though it’s not been a problem with overpriced Macs. The recalled product is a Kensington laptop power supply.

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Serial number hide and seek. 🙂 There seems to be a game with hiding tyre pressures on cars too.

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My car tyre pressures are on a plate on a door pillar. I don’t quite understand how this leads to misuse of information. John may know, coming from near Norwich.

Back to registration for recall. If you buy online the seller will automatically have your contact details. But lets move on. I hope Which? might answer the queries raised earleirabout what mods are being done to Whirlpool dryers and why some have the luxury of a green dot (as opposed to the black spot).

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Malcolm – I have never heard of Pure Tyre of Norwich but a quick search shows they are a mobile tyre fitting service and they publish manufacturers’ recommended pressures [as do lots of other tyre supply and repair companies I expect]. I have not entered their website.

Duncan – I guess Wavechange was just likening the inconvenient placing of the data plate on home appliances to the way car manufacturers have put the tyre pressure details in odd positions. I don’t think he was suggesting that they were being devious or trying to conceal essential safety information. As Malcolm said, the door pillar has become the most likely place to find the tyre pressures. On our present car it is on the B pillar on the driver’s side, on a previous car it was on the passenger side, and on the one before that on the threshold.

I can’t see what’s wrong with QuickFit or any other tyre company having the VRM – they’re going to have the whole car up on the hoist before long in many cases. Tyre companies might have restricted access to some of the vehicle data held by the DVSA but I doubt if they would have access to the registered keeper details held by the DVLA.

Let’s get back to troublesome tumble dryers.

I have a Hotpoint dryer machine that requires modification. We notified Hotpoint in February 2016 and they advised that if I contacted Currys and paid approx £95.00 our dryer could be modified. When I contacted Currys they said they were no longer part of this plan and to call Hotpoint again for an engineer to visit . Hotpoint have advised that we are on their wait list and the date given for any engineer for rectification is January 2017 I have called them several times asking if it is possible to sort out before then- the answer is ‘no’. When I use the machine – about twice a week, I always clean out the filter but I now have a smoke alarm installed in the garage above the machine and last week bought a fire extinguisher. I am disgusted with Hotpoint and their treatment of customers, I shall never again buy one of their products. Waiting 10 months is no joke.

Cath says:
28 October 2016

I registered my tumble dryer on 24 Nov 2015. Still waiting for a repair. Have received numerous emails to apologise for the wait but no action. Ridiculous.