/ Home & Energy

Whirlpool’s unsafe dryers must be recalled

Whirlpool

If an appliance in your home had a serious safety flaw, how would you know and what would your expectations of the manufacturer be? As an owner of a fire-risk dryer, Sarah Jayne Lyden-Burke joins us to explain her frustration at the situation…

In January 2016 I found out I was one of the 5.3 million consumers unlucky enough to own a tumble dryer affected by the Whirlpool safety notice – my dryer was at risk of catching fire.

The safety notice covers the Whirlpool-owned Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan branded dryers that were manufactured between April 2004 and October 2015.

Dangerous dryers

Something about the situation felt unjust – faced with the choice of waiting around for a modification or paying towards a reduced price replacement, I founded a Facebook Group ‘Hotpoint Dryer Fire Risk’ so I could rally others in similar position to me.

These dryers pose a fire risk due to lint getting onto the heating element. Owners of these dryers were initially told that they could continue to use their appliance as long as they maintained them correctly by cleaning the filter after every use, and effectively ‘babysit’ the machine.

Finally, a ‘u-turn’ decision on the safety advice was announced in February this year. The change came after Which? filed 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.

Peterborough Trading Standards then issued two enforcement notices which forced Whirlpool to advise consumers that all affected dryers were to be unplugged and not to be used until they had the required modification.

Finding a solution

This is where the story gets even more complicated. On social media forums, many owners of the modified dryers are discussing that there are reasons to believe that the modification is not a fail-safe solution. Many are also reporting problems with their appliances that didn’t exist prior to modification.

We’ve all been left exasperated by the issue of mixed-messaging around these unsafe dryers. So many people have been let down, some more seriously than others. I’ve heard stories of those with disabilities who’ve shared concerns about their personal safety, as well as those who’re suffering with stress and anxiety caused the situation.

Besides the stress, what’s more concerning is the thought that there could be people out there who are unaware that they have one of these fire-risk dryers in their home. Do you have one? Have you checked yours or a family members’ dryer to make sure it’s not affected by the safety notice?

Check to see if your dryer is affected and find out what your rights are here.

It’s of the utmost importance that these fire risk dryers are recalled. We need to get the Parliamentary petition calling on Whirlpool UK to recall all faulty tumble dryers’ to 100,000 signatures by the end of April. Hitting this target will ensure that a serious debate on this safety issue can be considered in Parliament after the General Election.

It really is time now for Whirlpool to recall all dryers before any more damage caused. There have been too many fires as a result of inaction, approximately 750 fires have been reportedly linked to these dryers.

In my opinion, that’s far too many! So Whirlpool, please, make the right decision and recall all affected dryers – we need to get these dryers out of people’s homes.

This is a guest contribution by Sarah Jayne Lyden-Burke, founder of the campaign group ‘Hotpoint Dryer Fire Risk’. All views expressed here are Sarah’s own and not necessarily those share by Which?.

Comments
Member

Electrical Safety First http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk sends out emails about recalls very promptly. It’s simple to register for this service. The website also has a searchable database of recalled products.

We need a central registration service for all new products, on the lines of the system run by VOSA to notify us of safety issues with cars. I am not happy about registering products with manufacturers or retailers because of a variety of problems.

1. Companies have for years mixed up registration with data collection and competitions. I don’t want the risk that my data could be used for marketing.

2. Registration of products does not always mean that owners are notified of recalls.

3. If you move home, the companies would not have your contact details unless they had been advised of changes. People in rented accommodation sometimes move frequently.

4. Owners of secondhand products would not be informed of recalls.

Despite these problems, our Consumer Minister is looking at ‘Register my Appliance’, which is used by white goods manufacturers. In addition to the problems I have outlined above, this registration service does not cover the large majority of electrical goods.

I would like to see a registration service that all household goods and not just electrical goods. We need the help of Which? to make it happen.

Member

wavechange, you list a number of items as to why you are “not happy about registering products”. Would you now like to add to the proposals already made about how effective registering “could be done”?

We’ve seen 18 months of words complaining about Whirlpool; what we need are constructive proposals for sorting Whirlpool out but, more important, ensuring problem products can be fully recalled in the future. We need a “can do” approach rather than “why we can’t” and Which? need to address this. They seem to be the only vehicle we can use. Let’s get the “Consumers’ Association” back.

Member

We have been urging Which? to investigate an appropriate automatic recall system and help Government set this up as quickly as possible – initially for the most “at risk” products. This will, in my view, require automatic registration of the purchaser by the seller when a new product is sold. Which? have never responded to any suggestions. The problem with demanding that Whirlpool recall all suspect appliances is that unless owners have registered them they will not know who to recall them from, will they?

The other problem is that owners were advised not to use the Sale of Goods Act. When Whirlpool initially faced up to the problem they declared there were unsafe driers and knew which they were. Under SoGA an owner with a product under 6 (5 Scotland) years old can claim for a product that is unsafe. This seemed at the time by far the best route than relying on the plan worked out with Trading Standards that has left so many owners with unworkable dryers for up to 18 months, and Which? went along with this.

SoGA also requires repairs or replacements to be provided without unreasonable inconvenience to the customer. This implies compensation if that did not happen – and in Whirlpool’s case it has failed badly.

It is too late to ask for a recall. Whirlpool should be told to compensate all owners who still have faulty appliances so they can get themselves a replacement of their choice; they have been messed around for far too long.

As SoGA only strictly applies for products up to 6 years old I wonder whether the path pursued by Peterborough TS and Which? hoped to get redress for all consumers, however old their appliance. If so it was a misjudgement I’d suggest. An early class action might have been the best solution to get the consumer a fair deal.

These are my personal inexpert views that I have expressed before on Whirlpool Convos, and I am prepared to be corrected. However, Which? have never done so when invited in the past.

Member
Jack says:
22 April 2017

We bought one of the affected driers three years ago, three years that we had been, unknowingly, living with a possibly lethal machine. We notified Whirlpool as soon as the dangers became known, and we only switched the machine on when we were able to physically see it, as opposed to going to bed leaving it on. After about 18 months, an engineer finally fitted the modification. We still don’t fully trusted it. Yesterday, we heard of a case, not far away, where two men have died in a fire in their flat. The initial report says that the seat of the fire was IN OR NEAR their tumble drier ! It was Hotpoint. Without the money to buy a new machine, what can we do, except pray for dry weather so that we can put the washing on the clothes line ?

Member

Jack, you are caught up in a terrible situation. What you CAN do is to support the petition by signing if you haven’t already. The link is in the article to enable us to ensure a serious debate is considered in Parliament. Also get your family & friends to sign too & share it. Whirlpool have put everybody who owns an affected appliance in a very difficult position but they do not seem to care if you have the money to replace your appliance or what effect this may be having on individuals lives. Join the Facebook group mentioned in the post & we can try & assist you concerning you having had the modification.

Member

Sarah, exactly what do you expect from a parliamentary debate. This issue has already been in front of a select committee, the chairman has twice written to the CEO of Whirlpool and we are still no further forward (except more dryers will have been rectified). In 18 months words have achieved little. Action is needed; consumer law is designed to do this.

Can dryers be recalled? How do you know who owns them?

Should SoGA have been used? I think so.

Surely we need to address the core problem of registering appliances so in future recalls can be effective. Wouldn’t that be the better debate to instigate? Perhaps Which? need to campaign for that. But hopefully based on some constructive and practical foundations that they have thought through.

Member

Absolutely right. A Parliamentary debate is in the long grass anyway now.

Member

I would like to see a debate in Parliament. It’s time to discuss what measures should be taken against companies that fail to act in the interest of the public. Initially, Whirlpool said that owners of the affected dryers could continue to use them provided they were not left unattended, despite advice to the contrary. Even where owners were aware of the problem and had made contact with the company, many were kept waiting for over a year before action was taken.

My understanding is that there is sufficient evidence to issue a recall, and the company should have been ordered to do so without delay. In the circumstances, my view is that Whirlpool should not be allowed to sell dryers until they have addressed the current problems.

Member

How do you recall dryers form people who have not registered and don’t respond to publicity?

The hot air that will be generated in Parliament – if under the circumstances it should ever reach the floor – would be much better used in drying the clothes of people with unsafe and unusable dryers – if only it could be bottled. We need action based on sound proposals, not another 18 months of talk.

Let’s establish a proper recall system – should have been started years ago.

Member

I suggest TV and social media, and ask people to pass on the information to their neighbours, friends and family. That could have been done long ago.

I have already said that we need a central registration service.

Member

The problem is that people seem not to respond to this kind of approach – otherwise many more would have contacted Whirlpool. Just like choosing energy tariffs, people seem reluctant to do anything. Hence, if we really do want a proper recall system (that not only protects the owner but possibly their neighbours) we need it to cover everyone automatically. So registration at the point of purchase seems one good way.

I think we should also be debating the role of Trading Standards – and Peterborough in particular – in the Whirlpool fiasco. Why they have been involved in a “plan” that has not only failed, but is allowed to continue to fail. Why have they not used legal powers to get consumers prompt and effective redress? Perhaps using the Trading Standards organisation in the same locality as a major employer being taken to task is not the best solution. As this is a national problem, why do National Trading Standards deal with such major cases?

Maybe sometime Which? might put proposals to us?

Member

Malcolm, I ask myself if you are directly affected by this issue & have personal experience of what effect it has on someone. I, like Wavechange, want to see & I quote ‘what measures should be taken against companies that fail to act in the interest of the public’. I want the Business Select Committee to do a FULL investigation into Whirlpool & Consumer Rights, this is something they have not done to date and for them to fully endorse & call on the Government to implement the Lynn Faulds Wood report.
Of course dryers can be recalled, I find this a silly question… Look at when the Mars bars were recalled not so long ago, people hadn’t registered when they had purchased those! It is the consumers responsibility to look out for the recall. But saying this the company, Whirlpool in this case, need to implement what they say they will do such as Maurizio Pettorino stating he would do adverts in the main tabloids which never happened hence we have so many consumers still unaware of the situation. However, saying this, you would be surprised at the amount of consumers that have been contacted but have never registered, so how does this happen? Whirlpool must get this information from somewhere other than when the appliance is registered.
As for SoGA & CRA, depending on the time when the appliance was purchased, of course it should be used! This is one area we do agree on. In my group we recommend using these to your benefit after all they are there to protect the consumer.
As for dealing with the ‘core of the problem’ I have dealt with this earlier on when mentioning the Lynn Faulds Wood report. I agree that a campaign for this should also be done.

Member

“Of course dryers can be recalled, I find this a silly question”. Thanks Sarah. This kind of response is hardly constructive. If you read my contributions over the last couple of years you will find I have been constructive in my approach, both on recalls and addressing the Whirlpool issue. Which? have got nowhere, Trading Standards have hardly achieved anything. We are 18 months on with consumers still faced with dryers they are told are unsafe and are advised not to use. Campaigns, petitions, Convos, talking has got us not very far.

Why have customers not been advised to use SoGA?

The Lynn Faulds Wood report was short on thought-through proposals, and that was two years ago. We need a group with the right knowledge and experience to put together a proper, workable method of recording the essential details of who purchases appliances and other potentially problem products so a recall, when necessary, can be effective. Get it up and running with the most risky products so we don’t wait years for “perfection”.

A Parliamentary Debate under the present circumstances seems unlikely I would suggest, and I still would like to know just what it is expected to achieve for Whirlpool owners who need action now – well 18 months ago.

Interested bodies would perhaps do well to sit down with Which? and start working out a strategy for both getting redress for Whirlpool owners – by legal means if necessary – and for devising a registration system that is practical.

Member

I endorse Malcolm’s comments. Some of us who have been contributing to this Conversation and its predecessors for two years now are not necessarily affected by the fire-risk dryer problems but have nevertheless put forward many suggestions and recommended actions to move the situation forward. I recall submitting a three-step rectification plan that could have resolved the crisis by now. I am not claiming it’s the perfect solution although it would have been a start, but Which? took no notice and [with the exception of Peterborough] trading standards authorities and the national body have ignored it. Peterborough have not ignored it but they have not done anything effective and it was not until Which? belatedly started a judicial review process that the City Council made another move.

My ‘rectification plan’ was set out in a comment in October 2016. See : https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/whirlpool-fire-risk-rip-off-britain-pete-moorey/#comment-1461401

We must have a workable registration system for appliances, working forwards on a risk assessment basis. But let’s not forget that Whirlpool haven’t even dealt with all the customers that they are already aware of let alone the number who have not yet contacted them. It’s not the lack of customer data that’s holding things up but a lack of determination.

I am not against a Parliamentary debate taking place so long as we understand it cannot be before Parliament reconvenes and will not make any decisions. I support any moves to have this fiasco raised to the highest level but until the responsible authority applies the law and enforces consumers’ rights it seems nothing much will change and progress will remain slow and inadequate.

Member

Malcolm, I am not here to argue… You have picked out ONE sentence of my reply that you feel was detrimental to you when it was not. You haven’t picked up on anything I have agreed with you over.
You are actually wrong in the fact that Which? have got nowhere, after filing for a judicial review Whirlpool have issued a second safety notice for all consumers to unplug their appliances which is a better state of affairs than using something with an inherent fault.
Rome was not built in a day, it’s a long process as I am sure you appreciate in getting subjects to Parliament or even debated! Surely the scenario of getting Andy Slaughter MP’s petition is attractive as a form of getting the recall issues highlighted. Yes, it may have taken 18 months & believe me I have walked every step with a lot of affected consumers.
Who has advised consumers not to use SoGA? This obviously is only until Sept 2015 then the CRA came into play but this does not help those whose appliances were older than 6 years (5 in Scotland).
I look forward to seeing you at the debate in Parliament when it takes place 🙂

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
24 April 2017

“Interested bodies would perhaps do well to sit down with Which? and start working out a strategy for both getting redress for Whirlpool owners ……”

Malcolm – given what Which? failed to do, and the positive actions of Sarah Jayne Lyden-Burke, and her campaign group ‘Hotpoint Dryer Fire Risk’; plus the chap who did a 5 minute video taking a machine apart in April 2016; I am not sure of the benefit to other parties discussing this with Which? The legal side is solid the machines are unsafe by design or poor manufacture.

Which? could have asked for a judicial review in November 2015 given it was prepared to say they should not be used at that time. They did not.

They could have taken some machines apart and demonstrated what goes on whether you clean them and not and put it on the Web with the other 1800 videos it has done. But it didn’t.

To my mind the leadership of Which? in this matter seems to be content with Conversation after Conversation. Other than being goaded into action from here and the outright call of the London Fire Brigade in August for a ban I am not sure if this body would have taken any substantive action.

Full respect to those activists who get off their hands and did something.

Member

John, where did you submit your ‘rectification plan’ to? Business Department would have been the place to go 🙂

Member

Sarah – It was in the comment to Which? Conversation for which I provided a link above.

There have been several Which? Conversations bemoaning the lack of action by Whirlpool and the responsible authorities so I assumed Which? would welcome such suggestions and might include it in their submission to the government. Which? has a lot more clout than I do so I expect Which? to do the campaigning! I seem to recall that at the time the Business etc Department did not have any functions or a minister listed under Consumer Affairs.

I have read all the posts you have submitted over the last three months [which for some reason were all I could find on this site] and in many of them you have reported that the modifications undertaken by Whirlpool were not satisfactory with the result that some of your supporters have experienced subsequent fire outbreaks [presumably, in some cases, involving machines that had not previously caught fire]. It would seem that – apart from deleting parts of your comments for purportedly promoting your campaign group – Which? has not taken any notice of your comments or included any reference to that problem in more recent articles. I am very disappointed that this further dimension to the problem has remained unexplored because a defective modification is just as serious as the original fault.

Member

Sarah, this is not an argument, but I do not see condemning a question as “silly” is helpful.

Which? advised that using SoGA was not likely to be helpful (although very late they have suggested it might be used). I have a letter that states “……we are reluctant to recommend to consumers that they approach their retailer with an argument under SoGA….as the evidence clearly suggests they are likely to be rebuffed”. Surely a situation a consumer’s association – one that I fund – was set up to put right.

A “success” for Which? in getting Whirlpool to tell owners they should no longer use their machines? It is of little help to those affected and waiting……………….

I don’t know whether you have looked at these Convos over the last 18 months but as John says a lot of constructive proposals have been made. For example;
– Have any affected machines been tested to ensure they comply with the safety standard? If they don’t, there is a serious issue.
– Why did Which? not use consumer law to help consumers once the TS plan seemed to be far too slow?
– a number of contributors put forward proposals that might improve dryer safety in future. it does not seem that Which? did anything to promote these, nor engage with the BSI committee involved to discuss them.
– Why, when it was clear that Whirlpool’s remedial / replacement programme was so inadequate did Peterborough TS not impose a condition that anyone who did not receive a repair within – let’s be generous – 3 months should receive adequate compensation?
– proposal were made by a number of contributors as to how the remedial process could be better dealt with.
– why has no proposal been put together for a recall system? ho must we wait for?

So many constructive proposals have been made, but not responded to. What would a parliamentary debate achieve, and if anything, quickly enough to help all those who still have defective dryers?

Member

I wrote through my MP to the Business Innovation and Skills Committee with concerns about sidelining customers’ legal rights (SoGA), Peterborough Trading Standards ineffective role, compliance of faulty dryers with standards, and the general issue of a workable product recall system. Essentially the reply I received said “It may assure you to know that my officials are in contact with Peterborough Trading Standards with respect to progress in the Whirlpool case. The Trading Standards have assured us they are satisfied that the company is proactively taking all possible action”.

Would we agree with that?

Member

I was asked by Which? to share my story which I have done & I would suggest that if you want to know what a parliamentary debate would achieve contact Andy Slaughter MP, he’s the best man for the job, I back him all the way. If one does not attempt to make a difference then nobody would ever get anywhere.
Have a lovely day 🙂

Member

A number of people in these Convos have made constructive proposals in the expectation their consumers association would take proper note and do some ground work. Some have also made direct representations to Trading Standards and Government. They have attempted to “make a difference” as well as others. I wish you well in your campaign. I have little faith in the quick result we need through Parliament but hope I’m wrong.

It seems to me that we need a properly coordinated effort to address the Whirlpool issue more quickly in favour of affected owners, but equally importantly to address the introduction of a workable recall system. As these are consumer issues, I would hope that Which? (Consumers’ Association) could form an umbrella group to bring together those of like mind, formulate workable proposals, and using existing law and through Parliament get something moving. I suspect Parliament would welcome a thought-through scheme that they can develop; they are not very good at doing this for themselves without using very expensive consultants.

Member

Perhaps we should ask BSI whether the affected dryers are non-compliant with the relevant standards or whether the standards are inadequate – or both.

Member

Someone would need to provide BSI test laboratories with a dryer that is defective if they were to be involved. However Which? could do this through their “own” laboratories; only part of the test standard would need to be checked. I’ve asked Which? 18 months ago whether it would do this; no response. It may be that they already have the answer.

We’ve discussed the safety standard, possible improvements, the role of Which? in helping develop standards directly through BSI committees, and I’ve pointed out that BSI have already a working group looking at the fire hazards posed by domestic appliances, along with international standards bodies. Standards can always be improved.

Member

I wonder exactly why Trading standards have done little, Parliament has done little and Which? (by all reports) has done little. I guess the pertinent question is why?

Member

Surely BSI does not need the help of Which? to find some of the affected driers to examine. The committee members may have examples in their own homes. Carrying out tests on appliances that have been used is likely to reveal information that could not be established from testing unused appliances.

Member

It’s high time that we had an inquiry into the failings of Trading Standards, Ian. I suspect that it would establish that it is simply not coping because of lack of resources.

Member
Sarah Jayne Lyden-Burke says:
24 April 2017

I would agree that TS have a lack of resources but also anything to do with the Hotpoint issue that is sent to your local TS gets forwarded to Peterborough TS to be dealt with. TS have failed the consumer dreadfully 😕

Member

BSI’s role does not include policing the market and checking all the potentially non-compliant products that are being sold. That is one of the jobs of appointed organisations such as Trading Standards. Which? tests products for consumers and it seems sensible for it to have taken a defective dryer or two from its affected members and examined it. I would have also thought if dryers were suspect then Peterborough Trading Standards should have done this as part of its remit. Perhaps they both know there is not an issue of non-compliance with the safety standard.

Which? has both expertise in consumer products, uses test facilities to evaluate them, and hopefully interacts with its members on products, their problems, and constructive suggestions on improvements. They would seem well placed to take their knowledge to the relevant BSI committee to help develop improvements to standards. Many on these Convo’s have different degrees of knowledge and expertise to help Which? in this respect; it would be a shame if they were not put to good use.

Member

I would like to see action taken to restore the resources of Trading Standards and to see national issues dealt with by National Trading Standards and not at local level. I’d also like to see a proper Consumers’ Minister, not a part-timer with many other duties.