We gave evidence this week to a BEIS Select Committee session. We believe the OPSS review is fundamentally flawed, meaning people are still potentially at risk.
As part of our End Dangerous Products campaign, our Sue Davies gave evidence this week to a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee session.
Whirlpool has now finally agreed to name all its fire-risk tumble dryers.
"The OPSS needs to get a grip on this issue and get a proper understanding of the scale of the problem and make sure unsafe machines are taken out of people's homes" – Sue Davies, Strategic Policy Partner at Which? pic.twitter.com/viZYk5nVoM
— Which? (@WhichUK) July 2, 2019
Sue Davies, our Strategic Policy Adviser, said:
“Whirlpool executives came face to face with a brave mother who laid bare the devastating impact that tumble dryer fires are having on their customers – and yet still the company insists on putting corporate reputation ahead of public safety.
With Whirlpool admitting it has only managed to provide a modification or replacement for a tiny proportion of affected machines in the last two years, it’s clear that the company is failing to do enough to keep customers safe – and now it has acknowledged that modified machines are still catching fire.
If the safety of Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers cannot be assured, secretary of state Greg Clark must step in and ensure that all potentially dangerous machines are immediately removed from people’s homes”
Whirlpool is now facing a recall notice over its fire-risk tumble dryers. The move has been referred to as ‘unprecedented’ by Consumer Minister Kelly Tolhurst.
David Chaplin, Which? Head of Campaigns, said:
“For years we’ve been raising serious concerns about Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers as well as the cynical tactics – such as the reported use of non-disclosure agreements – that the company has used to put its corporate reputation ahead of public safety.
People’s lives have been put at risk for far too long, so it’s a hugely significant step that these machines are set to be recalled. But there will be serious questions if this recall only addresses the 500,000 unmodified machines that Whirlpool has already struggled to locate.
The Government must urgently explain what it is going to do about the millions of modified machines still in people’s homes, following serious concerns that have been raised by people who have experienced fires, smoke and burning despite the so-called fix.”
Consumer minister Kelly Tolhurst has said she will ‘take further action where necessary’ following the allegations that a Whirlpool customer was paid to keep quiet, as we’ve reported below.
David Chaplin, Head of Which? Campaigns said:
“No-one should be prevented from speaking out about such a vital matter of public safety – the Government must urgently investigate these disturbing allegations that suggest Whirlpool is putting its corporate reputation ahead of the welfare of its customers.
The credibility of the fundamentally flawed OPSS review into Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers is now in tatters. The Secretary of State Greg Clark must step in and ensure that all potentially dangerous machines are immediately removed from people’s homes”
Original Convo 25/04/2019
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has now published its review of Whirlpool’s tumble dryer modification programme, more than 10 months after it was launched.
The OPSS was instructed by the Government to answer two questions about the company’s modification programme following concerns raised by Which? and BBC Watchdog in 2018 that modified Whirlpool machines were still catching fire:
- 1. Does Whirlpool’s modification effectively reduce the risk of fires caused by its tumble dryers?
2. Has Whirlpool’s response to consumers been adequate?
Despite the OPSS failing to speak with any affected Whirlpool customers about serious safety incidents involving fire, smoke and burning (possibly as a result of the failure of the modification) or to take into account the nearly 7,000 emails from Which? campaign supporters, the review found that ‘the risk to consumers who have had their Whirlpool tumble dryers modified is low’.
Alarming new evidence
Now, alarming evidence has emerged suggesting that Whirlpool may have been actively trying to prevent customers who have experienced issues with their modified machines from speaking publicly about these incidents.
If true, this raises serious questions about the accuracy of the evidence provided by Whirlpool to the OPSS and casts significant doubt on the review’s conclusions, potentially leaving people exposed to unacceptable risk.
These latest allegations follow a series of issues with Whirlpool’s indifferent response to such a serious national safety incident first announced in 2015.
Past problems have included customers facing unacceptably long wait-times to have their machines repaired or replaced and a 2017 Which? investigation that found Whirlpool was giving inadequate, inconsistent and potentially dangerous advice to its customers regarding use of these faulty, unmodified machines in their homes.
Whirlpool continues to claim that there have been “no reported incidents where the modification has proven to be ineffective” despite Which? publishing an incident report from a Whirlpool engineer suggesting otherwise.
If it is the case that incidents subject to non-disclosure agreements were missing from the evidence Whirlpool provided to the OPSS, then the OPSS may have been misled in its review. This must be met with strong action.
Put people’s safety first
We believe it really is time for the Secretary of State to step in and place people’s safety above business interests, and remove all potentially dangerous machines from people’s homes immediately.
Have you experienced problems with your modified dryer catching fire, producing smoke or burning smells? If so, I’d be hugely grateful if you would be willing to share your story in the comments below.
If your appliance has been modified and you see any signs of smoke, burning or fire when using it, you should report it to the manufacturer immediately.
Despite these concerns, we’d still recommend that you check if you own an unmodified machine. And if your dryer is unmodified, stop using it and contact the manufacturer. You can check to see if your tumble dryer is one of those affected by using our tool.