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Come on Whirlpool, sort this mess out

burnt tumble dryer

Millions of Whirlpool customers could be at risk of tumble dryer fires. Despite the clear safety threat, we found serious failings by Whirlpool. So Whirlpool – please, sort this mess out now.

Seven months have passed since the news that tumble dryers manufactured by Whirlpool (Creda, Indesit, and Hotpoint) are at risk of catching fire.

Seven months on and we’re still waiting for this mess to be resolved. Left totally disappointed by the sheer lack of progress, we went undercover to investigate what’s going on.

Whirlpool fire-risk failings

We conducted a series of undercover phone calls to Whirlpool’s customer service lines, combined with a survey of 800 affected customers and 40 case studies – including many of you…

We found widespread confusion and a lack of information. On our undercover calls we were repeatedly told to claim a replacement for a nine month old machine from the retailer, but a number of our case studies tried this route and were told to take this up with Whirlpool.

Owners of recalled tumble dryers are faced with unreasonable delays for repairs – delays of six months or more, and this is after the 8-12 week wait for a customer ID to register a repair or recall.

And yet all the while, the advice from Whirlpool has remained that customers may continue to use their fire-risk tumble dryers provided they follow additional manufacturer’s instructions.

Dissatisfaction doesn’t quite cut it for outraged customers like Richard Carbutt:

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, affected customers have been faced with the difficult decision of waiting it out for a repair or paying for a reduced price replacement.

It’s not on.

Action from Whirlpool

So we asked Whirlpool to comment on our findings, it said:

‘The safety of our customers is our number one priority. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the modification programme is being carried out in a safe and timely manner. The scale of this modification programme is considerable and we’re continually looking into alternative options which will allow us to progress the programme at a faster pace. As a result, we continue to recruit extra engineers and call-centre staff to speed up the modification programme.’

Whirlpool has set up a website for customers to input their dryer’s model details to see if it’s affected. But disappointingly, Whirlpool is yet to published a complete list of the affected models. We have – here’s 127 affected models. We think Whirlpool must take urgent action to put things right and publish the full model list. It’s their customers who are being left with faulty and potentially dangerous goods in their homes, it’s their responsibility to sort it out.

We want Whirlpool to:

  • Clearly list all 127 affected model numbers on the front page of its website with details of how customers can get help.
  • Speed up the process by making it quicker to generate a customer ID number when consumers first make contact with the call centre.
  • Train its call centre staff to offer better advice to affected customers and stop directing them to retailers, who are in turn directing people back to Whirlpool, simply delaying the process.

We’re also calling on the Government to act swiftly to simplify the product recall system.

Following Lynn Faulds Wood’s review into product safety, the Government set up a steering group to take the recommendations forward. We want the Government and the steering group to act quickly to close the loopholes that allow companies to leave consumers without the basic information and advice they need.

If you own a Whirlpool tumble dryer (Indesit, Creda, or Hotpoint) then follow our guide on what to do next.

So have you been affected by this tumble dryer recall? What has your experience been? Do you think Whirlpool are doing enough for their customers?

Comments
Member

Looking at today’s piece about Whirlpool on Which?’s website I note Which? are asking Lynn Faulds Woods group to see how the existing law applies. I am surprised that Which? does not itself examine how the law applies. As a Consumer Group I would have thought consumer law was one of the most important expertise it needed in house, particularly as it has its own legal section. At least I would have thought it retained and gave business on a regular basis to an expert consumer lawyer. Application, or the threat, of the law is surely a key weapon in consumers’ armoury?

From my layman’s look at the Sale of Goods Act and the newer Consumer Rights Act (for purchases after Oct 2015) they seem to require that an unsafe product requires replacement, refund or repair without unreasonable inconvenience to the consumer. Is this not sufficient grounds (if I am correct in my understanding) to require Whirlpool to approach their responsibilities in a much less relaxed way. So why not give all customers the immediate replacement option instead of trying to go down the protracted repair route.

Member

Hello Malcolm, you may not have seen, but Simon has responded to your question here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/tumble-dryer-fire-risk-hotpoint-indesit-creda-whirlpool/#comment-1446245

Quoting him for this page:

“Hi Malcolm
I would broadly agree with you but the Government has set up the steering group to do exactly that. While we would imagine that the steering group would look at the laws we mainly want them to assess the product safety regime, taking account of the issues that many customers have experienced with Whirlpool.

“Today I’ve sent over all our evidence that built up our case on this news piece to the Government’s steering group. I can’t imagine this is the last we’ll be doing on product safety, or the Government’s steering group.”

Member

@patrick, yes, thanks, saw it after I’d made this post and I have responded.

As I said in my response on the old Convo, I think Which? should act on its own account to decide the legal situation and get Whirlpool to make reasonable offers, not ones that might take 3 years. I am quite happy for part of my subscription to be used to this effect.

The above intro includes “We want the Government and the steering group to act quickly to close the loopholes that allow companies to leave consumers without the basic information and advice they need.”. I agree, but here those affected need direct action on a specific problem. How long will it take for Lynn’s group to sort that out, among their more general remit? I believe Which? has an obligation to its subscribers to apply consumer law to protect them.

Do SoGA and CRA require retailers to act in the way I suggest? Retailers would then, presumably, have to use their own rights to get redress from Whirlpool in principle, but I would assume Whirlpool have taken over the whole process legally.

Member
David Richardson says:
21 May 2016

Well, at least Whirlpool can spell ‘programme’ which Which cannot.

Member
Graham Burt says:
21 May 2016

I’m one of their customers affected and after registering with them I was told it would be August before they could repair mine.
There is an offer of a new machine for £99, surely this would be cheaper for them to give this free immediately rather than have an engineer come out.
Plus is would be good PR and give customer satisfaction

Member

Sorry, I missed out that I registered on Jan 5th

Member
P Newbery says:
21 May 2016

Had letter from Whirlpool in mid January to tell me I MAY have one of the affected dryers even though I had registered it when I bought it with model serial number etc. However I checked with them and I did have an affected model and that I should register. I registered and was informed I would have to wait until September before I would be given a possible date for the modification. Mid March and I get an email offering me the option of exchanging my dryer for a new replacement at a cost of £60 and delivery within 7 days. The tumble dryer is my only way of drying clothes and by weighing up the costs of trips to the local launderette and the replacement cost there was no contest. Although I don’t see why I should have to pay for their build problem I think they had me over the proverbial barrel. Replacement did arrive within 7 days. All in all not happy with the solution but needs must. Come on Whirlpool surely it must be cheaper for a large company like yours to give replacements free compared to the costs of engineer training and time involved in carrying out modifications and of the horrendous waiting time.

Member
J.S says:
21 May 2016

I registered my machine on the 23rd November 2015 kept checking when it was likely to be repaired using the online system each month it would change until we got to April now there is no month quoted, luckily we rarely use it. We clean the top filter after each use and check the condenser at the bottom behind the panel as well as that collects small bits of fluff. I think Malcolm is right by asking Which to take out a class action there must be a lot of subscribers willing to participate.