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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

I am pleased to see CEO Peter Vicary-Smith taking a firm stance on this subject, making “no bones ” about it . It needs to be given maximum publicity if only to save life and property . I hope the government realises how strong the feeling is nationwide and ,at least, intervenes in some fashion , in this terrible situation.

Member

Which? appears to have had no real influence in dealing with this issue. It has been going on now for over a year, with affected consumers no better off. Which? have not advised consumers to my knowledge that under consumer law (SoGA and CRA) when an item is unsafe the remedy should be made without unreasonable inconvenience. The implication is there should be compensation. Nor have they reported on any examination and testing of unsafe tumble dryers to see whether they might fail the International safety standards requirements on fire. Nor have I seen any indication that suggestions made in these Whirlpool Convos to possibly improve safety in dryer design has been considered by Which? and taken up with the BSI Committee that is responsible for the UK’s input into amending international standards.

Moaning about the situation – well we can all do that (and do). But constructive action is also needed.

Member

I would have preferred a more prompt response but it is very encouraging that Which is taking the action outlined by Peter V-S. It had not occurred to me that unmodified tumble dryers might still be on sale.

This could be a good time to look at the the safety of tumble dryers and other appliances. It has long been recognised that failure to clean the lint filter of a tumble dryer presents a risk of fire, yet I am not aware of any domestic tumble dryers with any form of interlock that prevents use until the lint filter has been cleaned. In contrast, for many years, washing machines have interlocks to prevent the door being opened while they are in use.

In the previous Convo I have posted photos and links to pages showing that move towards plastics in the casings of tumble dryers and washing machines means that if a fire does start it may it may spread, whereas a metal case could have contained the fire. It’s not just Whirlpool machines that are a danger in our homes.

Member

It is a good thing we are here to provide the ideas though of course we tend to the more practical end of the action spectrum.

What I am curious about is what is the situation in the rest of Europe. Are the affected ones solely sold in the UK? What is happening in Eire, Germany and Holland ?

Member

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

Very encouraging.

Member

“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? have known about this for over a year. What exactly does this assertion mean, and how long to action it?

Member
Brian Clifford says:
18 November 2016

Just about the worst experience I have ever had as a consumer. Essentially I was blackmailed into buying a new tumble dryer because Hotpoint were happy to let me live indefinitely with a very serious fire risk. An absolutely impossible company to deal with with a cavalier attitude towards its customers. As long as I walk this earth I will never buy a Hotpoint product again.
As for the company continuing to claim these fire risks are okay to carry on using providing they are not left unattended, I am way beyond belief. The advice shouts out that there is a very real risk of fire and you should be ready to extinguish it when it happens. Perhaps they should send out a loan fire extinguisher until such time they get around to repairing their products. In my case I would have been on standby for over 21 months had I not taken action.
Terrible company who frankly deserve to be abandoned by any customers it still has left.

Member
Robert C says:
20 November 2016

I don’t know how old the purchase is, but if you felt it was not fit for for purpose (and I’d agree) so that you need a replacement, then did you buy the original with a credit card? If so what does the credit card company say when you ask for a full refund ? They are jointly and severally liable, I believe.

Member
Jennie says:
19 November 2016

My parents, who are in their late 80s, have an affected model. A reasonably close neighbour was out of her home for six months following a tumble dryer fire where the flames went to paint stored in the garage adjoining the utility room. My parents do not have the internet. I tried to get this problem dealt with as a matter of urgency but failed. I was given a time scale of ten weeks for an initial response, not a repair or replacement. I found the CEO’s email and contacted him. The machine was fixed a week later! He has probably changed his email by now.