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.
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.
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.
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.