/ Home & Energy

Update: it’s unacceptable that Whirlpool is still failing consumers

burnt tumble dryer

Our investigation shows that, one year on from announcing that some of its tumble dryers were at risk of catching fire, Whirlpool is still failing millions of affected UK customers.

Slow and poor service

In April this year, we investigated the Whirlpool tumble dryer safety issue, surveying 820 affected customers and conducting 30 mystery calls to the Whirlpool call centre posing as customers with affected machines. At that time, we found multiple failings in how Whirlpool was handling its customers.

In November, we carried out a second investigation. We contacted those surveyed in April again, as well as nearly 500 additional affected customers who had not previously been polled.

We found those with fire-risk dryers are still being forced to wait far too long, with one in five (22%) customers surveyed in April still waiting for their machine to be repaired or replaced.

A third (33%) of those who had since had their dryer repaired or replaced said they were dissatisfied with how the manufacturer had handled the situation.

One quarter (26%) of affected customers were told they would have to wait longer than six months for their tumble dryer to be repaired.

Marlon says: ‘I was contacted by email last winter informing me that it would be done in March. March came and went then another email with June as the modification month. No contact in June. Another email in August asking if I would like another tumble dryer, at a reduced price, instead of waiting for the modification to take place. After looking at the reviews of the models offered on Which, I decided I would not take up the new machine offer. So now I wait, a year on.’

One in five (22%) were told that the wait would be between three and six months.

We found widespread concern among customers, with six in ten (62%) of those we surveyed for the first time in November 2016 worried about using their tumble dryer, despite Whirlpool’s advice to continue to do so.

Potentially dangerous advice

In addition to being forced to wait far too long, we found Whirlpool giving a customer incorrect and potentially dangerous advice.

Last month, our mystery shoppers made another 30 calls to the Whirlpool call centre.

One of those callers was told that their machine was not affected. This was incorrect as we gave the call centre a model number of a dryer we knew was on the list. They even told us to throw any letters received about the safety notice ‘in the rubbish’.

On three occasions, mystery shoppers were told to contact the shop they bought the machine from for a replacement.

We also found long waits for a customer ID number that needs to be issued before anything can happen in the repair or replacement process.

Despite Whirlpool committing to reducing the waiting time for a customer ID number to 10 days, Which? found some call handlers quoting 6-12 weeks to mystery shoppers.

Which? says

Alex Neill, Managing Director of Home & Legal Services at Which?, said: ‘It is absolutely unacceptable that, one year on, Whirlpool customers are still seeing slow, poor service and potentially receiving incorrect and dangerous advice. Whirlpool’s modification programme is clearly not progressing as fast as it should.

‘Following the devastating fire caused by a tumble dryer in Shepherds Bush earlier this year, Whirlpool cannot be allowed to continue letting consumers down. It must clean up its act and sort out this mess urgently.’

Update: 12 January 2017

Today, we’ve launched a campaign to challenge Whirlpool to sort this mess out quickly. It’s now been a lengthy 14 months since the news broke that certain Whirlpool-owned tumble dryers could pose a fire-risk.

Some 750 fires have been reportedly linked to Whirlpool’s faulty dryers. Whirlpool’s repair programme is moving too slowly, so their unmodified fire-risk dryers continue to pose a potential threat to people’s homes.


In August 2016, Sharna’s home was destroyed by a Whirlpool dryer:

Last month, we took the decision to file for a judicial review of Peterborough Trading Standards’ handling of the Whirlpool dryer safety issue. As Whirlpool’s UK headquarters are in Peterborough, it’s Peterborough City Council’s Trading Standards department that’s been dealing with this matter.

This issue shouldn’t be allowed to drag on any longer and we need your help to make Whirlpool do more to prevent dryer fires.

Do you support our campaign? Have you been affected by the Whirlpool tumble dryer safety issue? What more would you like done to resolve this safety issue?

Comments
Phil says:
12 January 2017

When advised that we had one of the offending machines and there would be a 9 month delay before Hotpoint expected to get an engineer out to us, we opted for the offer on a brand new machine for £70 for reasons of safety and because we had owned our machine for a good few years.
Strangely, Hotpoint were able to deliver this within just a couple of weeks!

I had an email last year that they would be contacting me to repair my tumble dryer and waited ages then saw a report on TV that they were offering replacements at cost. I contacted them and got a brand new machine for £59.

My affected tumbledryer was repaired last September but I am still nervous about using it. it took nearly a year for them to come and do it. I now never leave it on when we go to bed or when I have to go out. Before I bought it I was told on a tv programme that there was a problem with Creda tumble dryers, so I avoided that make, little knowing that it was the same company that my new dryer came from

The fire services advise not to leave tumble dryers, washing machines and dishwashers on overnight. Here is an example of the advice, from the London Fire Brigade’s website: http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/BedtimeRoutine.asp

I found mine was a faulty one in Nov 2015 a week after I bought it they are finally coming out next week. I think they should have replaced straight away

After waiting six months, no drier and working full time, had supplier take it back and they supported me with a new supplier.. Sad as always brought this brand will never ever buy again feel very let down and feel the bosses of company ever took it seriously and obviously are still not doing so

Doug Ward says:
12 January 2017

I have had my dryer serviced in August of last year luckily.
I see from the complaints there are plenty who haven’t.
While the electrician was here I had a good chat with him, he was on contract to the suppliers.
He told me most of the fires are caused thru the filter and condenser getting bunged up with flock off the clothes.
Plus the condenser drawer getting full of water would be a problem.
The machine I have unlike my last one doesn’t turn itself off when it fills up.
I understood what he was saying but I did say that the machines themselves had a defect which was making them overheat which in turn set the flock on fire.
He did agree

I read that you had the option of buying a replacement for£99.00. This was my preferred option as my wife would not trust a modified one. I contacted them about this and got no reply.
Why if Volkswagen and various other companies that mess up are brought to book are they getting away with this? apart from the misery that is caused by these fires why are the insurance companies that are having to pay out for fire damage, the Fire and Rescue services that have to attend not suing to recover their costs ?That would make them move faster.

I bought a Whirlpool tumble-dryer 17 yrs. ago It caught fire. I took it apart and replaced their hot-running thermostat with a cooler operating one. The fix cost me 32p (say, £3.87 today’s OTC)
The analytical estimated direct manufacturing unit cost of their dryer is approx. £60 max. yet it appears that Whirlpool wants to charge customers who already bought faulty dryers, 6x this (£350) again, instead of performing a <£2 repair.
Shameful and shabby greed.
VW were penalised $3.2Bn for falsifying their claims. Until we enforce accountability with similar legislation, nothing will change in our industry either.
I'm a retired Production engineer.

Peter, to be fair Whirlpool are offering replacement dryers at from £39 to £99, and for someone with a more elderly dryer that’s a reasonable deal, it seems to me. But this whole replacement process seems very selective – who gets this offer and on what basis?

The problem with the £2 repair is it takes no account of the labour cost, including travelling, to the customers home.

Nevertheless this has been very very badly handled by all concerned. An initial delay while Whirlpool got to grips with an inherited problem from Indesit is understandable, but those who should regulate these matters should have woken up well before now to the clear lack of timely and acceptable remedies and stepped in to get things done in a much better way.

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duncan, Peter, I’m not clear from your post when your dryer caught fire. You said you’d had it for 17 years. It also seems to pre-date the Indesit problem and was a Whirlpool own brand. So fat we cannot draw a conclusion as to what was causing the fire. As I understand the operation of the thermostat it will switch off the heater more often to reduce the average heated air temperature, but the heating element would still reach the normal operating temperature, just for less time. This may not stop lint being ignited.

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duncan, even if you turn down your CH thermostat your boiler burner still reaches the same temperature – just for less time. The point I was making.

I’m intrigued that this Convo launched today has already attracted 168 comments, the first on this page being…… 5th December 2016. Is this a new policy – to revive a topic and retain previous comments? I’m not saying it is a bad idea as a follow up but it might have been worth including a summary os contributors suggestions as to how the problem could be better resolved; it is as if their contributions are just swept aside.

Which? has asked me to support a campaign to take Whirlpool to task, and the intro seems to repeat the text of what they sent me. What Which? do not do is say what specific ways they wish Whirlpool to use, given the size of the problem. Do they recruit engineers from all their factories to make modifications? Do they set up regional repair workshops? Do they have mobile repair workshops? Do they repair/modify dryers centrally and send the refurbished ones out as exchange replacements? Should they offer all affected customers a full or partial refund, depending on use, or a new machine? Compensation for the gross inconvenience customers have had to put up with? All suggestions that Convo commenters have made.

But throughout this whole debacle I don’t recall Which? making any positive suggestions; they simply complained, like the other authorities, and achieved what? 15 months of unsafe products, potentially causing fires, left in homes.

The Sale of Goods Act and the Consumer Rights Act require unsafe products (these are) to be repaired or replaced without unreasonable inconvenience to the customer (probably a few million here). Yet Which? advised not using your legal rights with the retailer. But this advice has not helped, has it? SoGA is, of course, not applicable to those with appliances over 6 years old, and maybe they also expected you to get a better deal than SoGA proposed for those with older dryers but under 6. But maybe those with dryers in the qualifying period would have done better, or got a resolution much quicker, as recent contributors have found.

We need an action plan that is feasible, not just criticism, not impractical proposals. We need action. Just how will simply complaining and getting the courts involved in a judicial review do that? Well we’ll see, but I wish Which? would take a practical approach to this problem, take note of what contributors have suggested and make the consumer as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with (a precis of Which?’s mission statement).

Sorry Which?. I know it is a repeated criticism I have made, but I do not think you have dealt with this well. 🙁

This is obviously not a new Conversation but has been chosen to appear on the current homepage. There have been various criticisms of launching new Convos on much the same subject, which can lead to parallel discussions. I like the idea of updating the introduction of an existing Convo, which helps show what is happening.

jennifer says:
13 January 2017

My niece had a Whirlpool oven that exploded-twice!!!

I would never ever buy anything from Whirlpool.

pannell44 says:
13 January 2017

[This comment has been removed for being off-topic. Please refer to our community guidelines. https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/ Thanks, mods.]

Whirlpool products have never been an I would buy item, bottom of the barrel overpriced rubbish.

Under the repair / replacement scheme I was offerd a new replacement machine for £20. I took up this offer in June 2016. I now find the filter has ripped on the new machine, with delivery it has cost £17 to replace and when inquiring with the manufacturer i was told it is not covered by the manufacturers guarantee, When you think part of the time i have owned this machine it was not used due to the summer months it has turned out to be not the ideal replacement, I dont think they have still got the replacement right.

Last summer Whirlpool made a very good offer to replace the suspect tumbledriers wit a new safe version, install it and take away the faulty one. Total cost £59!!! This offer was on the internet and available to all.

If people do not want to feel safe then ther is little anyone can do and if they will not pay a relatively small amount (probably less than many people spend on takeaways/meals out in a month) and gain considerably not only on safety but with much better and cost effective alternative then all the campaigns in the world will not help. Our electricity bill has gone down since we had the new dryer so we have probably saved the cost already – the new one switches off when the sensor indicates when the clothes are dry. I am all in favour of safety campaigns, but I think the offer was very fair and reasonable – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!

You miss the point, if the manufacturer supplies unsafe goods, then they should be replaced without any cost. The manufacturer wants to supply shoddy goods and they get found out, in this case, because they catch fire and in some cases ruin people’s homes, why should those people then have to pay anything to put it right, The manufacturer should supply safe products and make good any other damage at their expense, no argument. Rip of Britain HAS to be STOPPED.

There aren’t stringent enough regulations to protect consumers from too many faulty goods that are allowed to get on the market. Successive governments have allowed the increasing development of irresponsible businesses that care two hoots about customer safety. Enough is enough. Customers have got to have better protection, and NOW.

There are stringent regulations, embodied in international safety standards including those for consumer products, that should protect us. In Europe only products that comply with these safety standards are legally allowed onto the market. The problem seems to be with the lack of resources to police the market, track down non-compliant products put there illegally, and punish the perpetrators adequately (starting with the importers and distributors) to make their activities not worthwhile. Trading Standards is our guardian in the UK; if we don’t fund it properly it can’t do its job.

Marian mcla says:
13 January 2017

Kept ringing them for over a year after being told by my houseinsurers that my cover would be invalid if I were to claim for fire damage caused by my Hotpoint tumble dryer.Hotpoints response was to not leave it unàttended while in operation. Eventually they supplied me a new machine FOC to get me to leave them in peace.

I don’t have a Whirlpool T/Dryer, but I have great sympathy with those that do. Is it not time that the government or an official body stepped in and took away their manufacturing license until they get all these machines back and replaced them with safe, efficient working ones. Personally, I won’t touch anything to do with the Hotpoint group of companies, there are much better makes on the market, which might be a bit more expensive, but better that than deal with a company that doesn’t appear to care!!

You would think a substantial boycott of all Whirlpool products by consumers might force them into action, wouldn’t you. I suspect most people don’t care enough.

The U.K government should have come down on Whirlpool like a ton of bricks in much the same way as the U.S. authorities did with B.P. and Volkswagen.
Whirlpools response has been little short of disgraceful and moraaly wrong and it probably will not take imediate action unless someone is killed due to one of their faulty machines bursting into flames..
My Son who has just purchased a new flat asked my advice about an Indesit Washer dryer he was looking at purchasing. I told him to avoid it like the plague along with Arisiton and Hotpoint which along with many other marques are owned by Whirlpool. I know it won’t make much of a dent in Whirlpool’s profits but at least I can sleep sound at night secure in the knowledge that my son’s life and his property will not be at risk.

Other makes have caused fires, John, so the best advice you can give your son, whichever tumble dryer he chooses, is always to clean the filter before each use of the machine, not to run it when there is no one in or awake, and to ensure that a smoke alarm is fitted and tested regularly.

As far as I know, BP and VW violated US law but I don’t believe Indesit (now Whirlpool) have violated EU or UK law – unless their machines do not comply with the EN standard covering safety. Trading Standards are the body that polices these issues and it is they who seem to have agreed to Whirlpools planned remedies, and then permitted the dilatory response of Whirlpool. It is perhaps they who should be admonished by the Government and told now to change their original agreement with Whirlpool that clearly has not been effective.

Denis says:
13 January 2017

Typical of the EU. They should be imposing massive fines on this company. If this was the USA then they would be paying for their mistakes – just like VW are having to.

Denis, it depends upon whether, like VW, they have broken any law – EU in the case of Whirlpool. If the dryers meet the EN safety standards then they probably have not. Testing would easily show whether they complied with EN 60335-1 and 2-11.

The London Fire Brigade report on the Shepherds Bush tower block fire says that the drum was deformed probably because the spindle/bearing supporting it was worn and that had gradually allowed lint to go where it should not – to the heater. Whether this was a machine fault, a poor design, por quality components or excessive use and/or age was not concluded. Testing could demonstrate just how widespread a problem this might be, and if it had been started when this issue first arose 15 months ago we might have learned something by now.

In the UK and other countries it is a legal requirement for cars to be inspected periodically to identify safety issues, including those caused by wear. Most people don’t have their appliances serviced regularly or do this themselves and unless wear is detected when repairs are carried out potentially hazardous wear may go undetected. The only practical solution that I can see is to put appliances in metal cases that can contain a fire that starts for any reason. The report you mention included photos but no mention that the fire had spread because parts of the casing had burned away.

Or here’s a thought rather than go to that expense which is total overkill for most people that look after their machines…

Get them serviced regularly just like cars, watches, boilers and a plethora of other devices that are serviced.

If they all require regular maintenance is it not reasonable to expect that appliances that are used daily ought to be also? Any problems would be picked up and resolved or dangers mitigated at a reasonable cost.

K.

I don’t see that an all-metal case will greatly increase the manufacturing cost of an appliance, whereas having it serviced annually would be expensive. I was recently looking at the Bosch website and a call-out charge of £90 was mentioned, and that’s outside London.

I do support regular servicing and safety inspection of electrical goods, which can help avoid breakdowns and accidents but I don’t think it is realistic to expect that this will happen and would only be a partial solution.

If everyone cleaned the lint filters on their tumble dryers there would undoubtedly be fewer fires, but the fact is that not everyone does this. Tumble dryer fires can start for many reasons. Maintenance and careful use would not prevent a fire caused by a burst motor capacitor, for example, but a metal case would contain a fire, whether caused by carelessness or through no fault of the user. Those in tower blocks are particularly at risk until appliances are designed to contain fire.

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They’re already in a metal case!!!!

There’s not a lot of plastic at all. Looks dramatic when it melts/burns but that’s about it, there’s no real danger from it.

If there were do you not think that the defined and accepted standards ratified by government and safety agencies across the EU if not the world would be altered?

The metal case thing is a red herring IMO as, they’re already in one basically.

And, as discussed previously some elements *MUST* be plastic to give electrical installation and safety, no alternative to it.

K.

Kenneth – Consider the difference between an old fashioned galvanised steel dustbin and a garden incinerator. The contents of the bin will not continue to burn once the oxygen is depleted whereas the contents of the incinerator will continue to burn. If the appliance casing has holes then not only can air pass through the fire but flames and hot gases that emerge can spread the fire.

Provided that there is a metal case to contain the fire then there is no problem with plastic parts inside.

I don’t want to see people lose their homes, even lives, when this could be avoided by improvement in design.

Edit: Here is the report of the Shepherds Bush fire. It looks as if the top has burned away and there is a large hole in the control panel. I don’t know whether the bottom of the machine has a metal base but I understand that many are open.

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Yes, all that is needed is to look at older designs for inspiration.

So what you’re saying then is that all the progress made in respect to safety over the past few decades should be tossed as the people governing that whole system haven’t a clue what they’re doing and you guys know better about tumble dryer safety than they do? Or perhaps you indeed know more/better than experts in the field.

Really, do you think that an reasonable stance to adopt?

And now you want to go backwards instead of forward as, that’s what it looks like to me?

Duncan, internal space is a **huge** issue for users, they want more so you cannot eat into the useable space, you are confined to a 600x600x850 Euro box, they have to fit in that space or they won’t fit into 99% of EU (including UK) kitchen units. So, there’s a really good reason for this, when you think about it and, back in days of yore, that system was used, it broke as knob shafts etc were forever breaking.

It all goes back to this when it comes to all the talk of design…

If you want it changed, you need to change the standards.

Coming up with airy fairy ideas is all well and good, some may even hold worth but, no manufacturer on the face of the planet is going do do diddly squat because you say they should. Even Which? or whatever other consumer organisation is almost sure to come a cropper trying that as a tactic, especially so when there is very good demonstrable reasons things are the way that they are.

Not only that but, the standards in place are obviously completely acceptable to all and have been for a time with very, very few incidents overall. In fact, these machines are ludicrously safe by many standards with far greater dangers posed elsewhere.

But if you think you can convince the EU and international safety bodies of the merit in your proposals, that there is a safety issue to be addressed and how those proposals will demonstrably improve safety whilst remaining cost effective then be my guest, have at it.

K.

There have been many worthwhile safety improvements in household goods, including flame failure devices in gas appliances and internal fusing and thermal cutouts in electrical goods. That does not help if the manufacturers introduce other safety hazards, for example by replacing steel tops and fascias with plastics.

I do believe that the standards should be improved but that does not mean that I reject the value of standards in general.

I have repeatedly suggested that anyone who has good ideas could send them to the UK standards organisation – BSI – where experts can cast their eyes over them, rather than simply rguing about them in a Convo which leads nowhere (unless Which?, supposedly on relevant BSI committees does this on our behalf). However, the good ideas all we amateurs have need to be considered by professionals with knowledge, in depth experience, to see if they merit further investigation (which may, of course, have already been done in the past).

We are all good at solving other peoples problems, whether it is products, strikes, financial crises, the health service, energy companies. ………and Convos are a good way to put opinions in front of others. But we should not assert we know better than those in the particular field unless we have genuine expertise and knowledge. Fine to make helpful suggestion, many of which might seem useful, but we must let experts assess them.

I would encourage these sorts of Convos; we all learn a lot from them.

I have explained why I have no intention of contacting BSI. As I have said before, you are welcome to pass on my suggestions. Would you agree that metal cases would contain appliance fires, or have I overlooked something? I’m always prepared to learn from others.

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Dryers get hot.

Hot things can go on fire.

How is that the fault of any business?

Lids are usually made from either metal (always with integrated) or wood with a coating and plastic trim, not from plastic entirely so to say that they are made from plastic is wrong. Most dryer lids are in fact metal however.

As are the sides, front, drum and rear panel as well as base panel if used on the model. Motor is also metal as are most other components, some with other materials also used as appropriate.

In essence as I have repeatedly said, there is very, very little that would ever ignite in any dryer other than what people put in them.

Once again, how is that the fault of any manufacturer, they’ve no control whatsoever over what people do with them, how well they do or do not maintain them etc.?

K.

Have a look for pictures of dryers and washing machines that have been on fire and you will see examples of machines where the control panel and in some cases the lid have been partly or completely burned away, allowing the fire to spread. I have posted a few examples on various Convos.

It’s not just lint fires that are the problem. There are reports of spontaneous combustion of materials both in dryers and after removal, and there is always going to be the risk of fire due to component failure in electrical equipment.

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The plastic is the least of the problems, that’s merely a symptom, not the disease.

There is no evidence I have yet seen that points to any issue there, merely some photos and speculation.

And Duncan, people will sell me a car that can be driven into a wall as I don’t maintain it, are they culpable for that also? As by your logic it would appear they ought to be.

K.