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Whirlpool: Which? will push for this issue to be resolved

burnt tumble dryer

As Which? approaches its 60th anniversary I wouldn’t have expected to be writing about the issue I write about today. This last year, I’ve been left shocked and angry at the behaviour of one particular manufacturer regarding its appalling response to potentially dangerous products – that manufacturer is Whirlpool.

For those unfamiliar with this story, certain lines of Whirlpool tumble dryers sold under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Proline and Swan brands are at risk of catching fire.

And this is not just a theoretical possibility, it’s happened in several cases over the past year – notably in a blaze at a flat block in Shepherd’s Bush in London.

Whirlpool Failings

Good design and manufacturing processes are essential to ensuring safe products. If a product could cause a risk to life or serious injury then we think a customer ought to be able to expect a prompt recall or fix from manufacturers. We don’t believe this is happening with Whirlpool.

Whirlpool’s advice to consumers is simply not to leave the tumble dryers unattended.

To date, Whirlpool has refused to list the affected products (Which? had to do this instead), and in most cases it’s merely offering to repair the affected models – which many of you have told us is taking many months – or give a discounted price on a different model.

Don’t Buy

We want anyone coming to Which? for information and advice to know that we have very serious concerns about how Whirlpool has handled this issue.

In our view, Whirlpool has failed to act adequately, so we’ve labelled all affected fire-risk dryers Don’t Buys – this is to clearly tell people to avoid unmodified versions of these products at all costs. This affects versions of the machines manufactured before October 2015, not those on sale now through Whirlpool or their official trading partners. So if you’re thinking of buying one of these machines second hand, our advice is not to. These affected fire-risk dryers will be marked as Don’t Buy products until we can be confident the problem has been rectified.

We will also be making our concerns about Whirlpool clearly visible on the product review pages on our website. The public should know that we think Whirlpool is failing to appropriately sort out this very serious product safety issue.

Until this is resolved we cannot have faith that consumers will be treated well in the event of any problems with their products.

Product safety

We’ll also be looking across all the brands we review and making the behaviour of brands regarding product safety a key feature of our product research and campaigning activities.

This is a warning to all manufacturers – if we consider you to be failing to act and adequately dealing with a product safety issue, you will be called out by Which?.

Which? and the London Fire Brigade have been pressing for action, but, as far as we can see, little progress has been made by Whirlpool.

We’ve been highlighting the case in the media over the past year, met with the trading standards officers in Peterborough, to try to get them to be tougher, and raised the matter with the Consumer Minister.

And we will continue to push hard for this to be resolved.

Comments
Member

Skimming through my archives (they are vast ) I came across one that might interest Wavechange . Published in the Caring Times by the editor – new S A F E system tackles problem fires in laundry driers ( commercial ) -quote- JLA a leader in the laundry business has launched what it describes as a revolutionary new system to counteract fires in commercial tumble dryers called the Sensor Activated Fire Extinguishing system —— it goes on JLA commercial Director -Peter Thomson said latest government figures show that fires were occurring at a rate of one a day ( so much for open government ? ) and were increasing –he goes on — as the worlds biggest independent distributer of commercial laundry equipment expect S A F E to become standard including in care homes – he qualifies his comment by- although there is no suggestion that the problem is rife ( one a day doesnt count -eh ? – ME ) –government figures speak for themselves -end quote. Now Wavechange if a very large company can get hold of government figures and not -Joe Blogs ???

Member

Thanks Duncan. There are other fire suppression systems. I helped a friend fit a Firetrace system to protect expensive machinery. The company now sells systems specifically for dryers: http://www.firetrace.co.uk/applications/fire-suppression-systems-for-tumble-dryers

It would be easy to use fire suppression systems on domestic tumble dryers but I contend that all that is needed for condenser dryers is to put them in a metal case with a metal door. If a fire starts it would go out within a short time because the oxygen would be used up.

The SAFE website has information about dry laundry going on fire as a result of over-drying, so it might not always be accumulated lint that is the problem.

Member

I quite agree with your comments on using all metal construction Wavechange but having worked in various industries they saved money by going from steel>aluminium>plastic. Production lines use plastic, to convert back to steel involves design dept> test dept> approval > change of machine tooling > teaching shop floor assemblers >approval by the public involving massive publicity – eg- our products are fire safe–worried about your dryer catching fire ? buy ****** dryers safe “beyond belief ” — get reduced house insurance with our product etc etc. All costing money. but saving lives , now which would the shareholders choose ?? I know saving money !

Member

Aluminium might be adequate but it does not take much expertise to work out that appliances should be tested for their ability to contain a fire.

Here is another photo showing a dryer that caused a house fire earlier this year.

A simple search for ‘tumble dryer fire’ will provide plenty of evidence that steel survives but plastic and glass are often destroyed in fires.

The publicity surrounding Whirlpool dryers provides a good opportunity to look at the problems of inadequate standards and poor manufacturing practice. The blinkered approach is to look at the Whirlpool problems but maybe it is time to open our eyes.

Member

I am glad photos are being allowed to be shown in Which , it sort of “humanises ” it , it makes it more attractive, more inviting than just text and brings a certain reality to the website .

Member

I agree, and hopefully photos add impact. I’m just hoping that someone in Which? will see that there is a general problem with appliance fires.

We cannot yet embed videos but as long as links conform to the Commenting Guidelines and Terms & Conditions, there is no problem in including them.

Member

I might be mistaken but the housing of this part-plastic dryer seems to have stayed fairly intact.

Member

There are around 13 million tumble driers with households in the UK. So we need to keep incidents in perspective, and bear in mind misuse and abuse are contributory factors to some fires. So it is not at all useful to say that there are “problems with standards and manufacture”; it might be an opinion but the opinions and ideas we express need to be put to those with expertise for consideration. Standards have kept consumers protected for decades and continually evolve as experience and technologies change; those who devise and amend them do so in the interests of safety. Rather than try to discredit safety organisations and manufacturers a more positive approach would be to put forward suggestions to those involved.

Which? should be looking after consumers interests here and I would hope, as apparently it is a member of or has contact with standards committees, it contributes to improvements.

By their nature dryers blow heated fresh air over clothes in the drum; to achieve this requires an air inlet and an outlet so I do not see how changing the construction materials can somehow make a sealed box that is fireproof – unless the inlet and outlet have some heat-operated shutters to seal them. However, I would hope that fire experts might have information on this. Plastics used in domestic appliances where they might be exposed to fire are required to be fire-resistant. They might deform but should not burn.

We seem to be repeating the same comments. Is it not time that Which? pulled these tumble dryer Convos together, talked to appropriate experts and formulated a way in which domestic appliances, and dryers in particular, might be improved in ways that are practical and effective?