/ Home & Energy

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

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.

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.”

@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.

David Richardson says:
21 May 2016

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

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

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

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.

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.

Leigh Thow says:
21 May 2016

I checked their website, registered my 7 year old indesit, which I’d had no problems with. They called me back quickly and arranged delivery of a fantastic new whirlpool tumble drier. I was like WoW this is awesome! The call handlers and engineers were lovely and couldn’t have been more helpful. I had a slight issue with the control dial and an engineer was dispatched quickly, text appointment system and he was great too. No complaints here, new machine which will hopefully last another 7 years with no cost to me.

I registered my machine on 23rd November2015 and an engineer came out to do the modification on 22nd March.
At the time I was unhappy about the delay and extremely apprehensive using my dryer but I now realise that I am lucky to have had the situation resolved when so many others are still waiting.

We logged ours in December 2015, in February 2016 we were given a date of August for a repair or buy a new one for £99. We were told it was safe to use providing we didn’t go out or use it overnight ! To me that means it’s unsafe.

We purchased a new one for £99, we felt we had no choice. What would have happened if ours had caught fire, who would pay. Everyone with a dangerous machine should get a free one and not pay £99, waiting nine months for a repair makes the machine unusable.

I would love to know whose paid for repairs to peoples houses after theirs caught fire.

Keith Brooks says:
21 May 2016

I was given the option of waiting to have our tumble dryer repaired, or pay £99 for a new condenser one.
I chose the latter option and it was delivered on the date I requested and the old one taken away.
Happy!

I went to the Hotpoint web site the day the news broke and gave my machines model number and serial number. The following day I received a response to the effect that my machine was one of those affected and that I would be contacted shortly with a proposal. Three weeks later I received a phone call informing me that a NEW replacement machine would be delivered the next day. It duly was and the old machine was removed. So it appears the sooner you got in contact the sooner you got a good service.Perhaps there is a lesson to be leart here. I was most happy with the service I got.

Graham Poole says:
21 May 2016

Our daughter took the £99 option even though she couldn’t really afford it but with a young child in house she couldn’t afford to risk the quoted eight month wait. She had previously experienced problems with the drier when it melted a cot duvet. She thought it was a problem with the washing/drying instructions on the duvet and managed to get a free replacement from Mothercare. She was very lucky it hadn’t caught fire. She’s very happy with the replacement but I had to drive 35 miles each way just to be in for delivery of the replacement so much inconvenience!

jon says:
22 May 2016

contacted them last november. they replied saying I would have to wait till October for an engineer to call.
I could buy a replacement from them for a discounted price though. When I asked why I couldnt have it for free as my original one was still under guarantee, was told that wasnt an option.
One other thing, I said to the call centre operater that I may record the conversation (as they do) I was told that he would “put the phone down and terminate the call”

Pete prager says:
22 May 2016

I bought in 2015, heard about the issue on the news and phoned in Feb 16, told about three months before they would get to me. Then received an email asking if I wanted to replace it, costing me £99, I should have returned it unfit for use. Now I have recieved a letter stating that they won’t get to me till Sept 16 and the offer is still on. We now use it very infrequently, defluff regularly after every event and only use when somebody is around we do not need or want a fire. Not particularly what I would call an item I want to use. If it was a car, recall action would have happened straight away. They have lost any creditable they had in my eyes and I for one will not be buying from any of their product lines again.

Pete’s comments prompt the thought that Whirlpool and the retailers have been very lucky that it is not exactly an easy matter to return a tumble drier, unlike, say, a kettle or a toaster.

Chris Town says:
23 May 2016

Having heard nothing from Whirlpool for months I had a letter apologising for the delay and offering a replacement condensing dryer for £99, I took this option and a couple of weeks later a brand new dryer arrived at a considerable discount, why can’t they offer everyone this option?

It seems to split up relevant comments when we have two conversations running in parallel on the same issue. We have
25 FEBRUARY 2016 / HOME & ENERGY
Update: Is your tumble dryer a fire-risk?

and now this one with similar comments being presented on both. Would it not be preferable to merge the conversations?

Many contributors have asked questions on the earlier Convo which have not been answered. For example:

This seems like a consumer legal problem that consumer law might resolve. I would be grateful if Which? could answer the legal questions that have been asked. If the retailers (who are responsible for these appliances) do not take effective action to meet their obligations under SoGA and CRA, or if Whirlpool have contractually taken on all the retailers obligations as seems the case, then an action by Which? on behalf of affected consumers to get repair, refund or replace without unreasonable inconvenience (so quickly)would seem to me to be the next step. It seems at the moment we are prepared to allow consumers to be inconvenienced, but not the manufacturer.

I do realise that Lynn Faulds Wood’s group are looking at recalls, but can we expect any action soon and are they specifically looking at resolving the Whirlpool problem?

As my affected Hotpoint is a few years old, I would happily take up the offer of the £99 new condenser model, but I cannot find any reviews available on the models that are on offer. They don’t even appear on the company’s website! There is online talk (Martins Money Saving Expert) that they are old models, or could even be reconditioned, and it might be difficult to get parts for them in the future. As the Hotpoint tumble drier I purchased was a Which best buy – any advice Which could offer to their consumers on this would be very much appreciated. I have emailed Which directly, but although sympathetic, I didn’t receive any concrete advice. The models offered to me (condenser) were Whirlpool TDWSF83BEZ, Hotpoint TDWSF83BEP, Hotpoint TCHL73BRP. I am sure I am not alone in being confused and hoping that Which would investigate this on our behalf, as a matter of priority?

So far none of those models show any availability of spare parts at all across all major UK spares outlets.

It may be that they are new models, often you won’t see parts info until they exit warranty or thereabouts.

If they were old models, parts would show up.

K.

Thanks Ken, with no guidance from Which, I guess I will just have to pick one of the hat then!

Mick says:
31 May 2016

We were offered a lengthy wait for repair or replacement for £99. All our kitchen appliances are black Indesit to match our kitchen but t they will not replace with a black one – it is white or repair, even though we offered to pay extra. Why no replacement in same colour when we had already paid extra for black items originally?

Which? news 31/5 says
“New Which? research can reveal that Whirlpool……contacted trading standards to let it know about the problem on 27th August 2015. But it wasn’t until 23rd Nov 2015 that news of the risk these driers could pose was made public by Whirlpool.”

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/05/whirlpool-took-months-to-go-public-on-dryer-fires-442629/ – Which?

Which? also have said:
“In this situation, Trading Standards have primary responsibility for enforcing product safety laws. Whirlpool has agreed to a set of actions with Trading Standards and are obliged to comply with that agreement, but are not obliged to recall the products. Due to the scale of the issue, we think that consumers are likely to get the quickest solution by pursuing their claims directly with Whirlpool rather than through their retailer or the courts.”

So are Trading Standards then negligent in not ensuring the danger was made known earlier? And are the actions agreed with Trading Standards the ones that seem to cause owners (very) unreasonable inconvenience to say the least? And why is the “quickest solution” pursuing Whirlpool directly when Which? have have estimated it could take 3 years or more to complete repairs?

I have to wonder, and ask, just where does consumer protection figure in all of this? I wonder what our (for now) Continental consumer associations are doing about this? Is this not an ideal consumer issue for the consumer groups to act together and force a proper settlement? Whirlpool of course is a US company…………………

“Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, is urging the Government to use its powers to force the US based company to act now and save lives.” http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ministers-should-force-whirlpool-recall-8084427

That should have happened months ago. Mr Livermore might like to explain why Trading Standards did not act sooner when Whirlpool notified them of the problem. Mr Livermore also said: “So we would call on the Government, in particular the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, to take action before someone dies.” People have died and others made homeless.

Still, it’s good to see that someone else thinks that government should be in charge.

I am surprised that agreements between ‘Trading Standards’ and manufacturers over serious safety concerns, possible recalls, and guidance to owners, are allowed to be classified as secret. Who are ‘Trading Standards’ supposed to be protecting?

Exactly. We need to know what Trading Standards have agreed to, and why.

This letter to BIS is interesting. Trading Standards seem happy with Whirlpool’s actions. So that’s alright then.

https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/business-innovation-and-skills/Correspondence/2015-20-Parliament/Whirlpool-response-25022016.pdf

I’d also like to know why Which? say “consumers are likely to get the quickest solution by pursuing their claims directly with Whirlpool” having estimated that will take “up to” 3 1/2 years to get a repair.

Thanks for posting that link Malcolm. I am dismayed at the way that the trading standards function in this country has been allowed [or forced] to become more and more invisible. The appendix to Whirlpool’s letter, being a statement by ‘UK Trading Standards’, refers to the ‘local authority’ but it does not name the authority. Perhaps UKTS [if it exists in more than virtual form] sees itself as a local authority in its own right; perhaps it is a phantom cover organisation that operates clandestinely through an underground network of council officers which enjoys a cosy relationship with major companies that they do not wish to compromise. Who knows? All very opaque.

County councils, metropolitan district councils and London borough councils seem to have trading standards departments but they concentrate on their statutory weights & measures responsibilities and no longer offer a public presence for consumer protection services. For that you have to go through Citizens Advice which acts as a gatekeeper. Local trading standards do appear to deal with consumer complaints [referred through CABx] and they carry out inspection and enforcement duties but not on the scale they used to. If people are worried about how they’ve been dealt with by a car dealer they are probably better off posting it here.

We used to have a Trading Standards Officer contributing to Which? Conversation [under his own auspices, not as an official representative] but we have not heard from him for a long time now unfortunately. The consumer protection landscape has changed so much in the last few years and there is now not even a minister in the government with that exclusive portfolio. This is a creeping but deliberate deterioration of an essential public service and I think it would be a good idea if Which? carried out an investigation into what has happened, why, and what the consequences are, so we can challenge the government on its policy.