/ Home & Energy

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

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 ???

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.

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 !

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.

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 .

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.

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

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?

Malcolm – I wrote: “….. 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.” In a condenser dryer, the air is recirculated, so there is no air inlet and outlet that would need to be sealed to create a sufficiently closed box to contain a fire. A fire would use up oxygen and produce carbon dioxide, which will not support combustion.

A vented drier is more of a challenge but a shutter system or using an exit vent system similar to a solid fuel stove would prevent fire spreading.

You say that my criticisms relating to manufacture and standards are not useful, but don’t forget that you have frequently criticised politicians, the public sector and higher education. I believe that the number of fires in appliances is ample evidence that problems do exist, and it would be little comfort to tell someone who had suffered a fire to be told that there are not many fires.

As you will recall, I tested small samples of plastics used in the casings of my four appliances and in each case the plastic burned rapidly, producing smoke. If there was an internal fire, I have little confidence that it would be contained. If a fire starts inside an appliance then all plastics used in the casing could be exposed to fire, so I contend that flammable plastics should not be used anywhere in the casing.

Certainly the focus should be on the Whirlpool brands that have been identified as a particular risk, but I contend that it is important to look at appliances in general.

Misuse is certainly a factor in tumble dryer fires. It is well acknowledged that failure to clean lint filters increases the fire risk, yet manufacturers have failed to take action to mitigate the risk, for example by fitting some form of interlock. Those responsible for setting the standards have not thought fit to require such action.

Steve Wright says:
5 December 2016

Interesting that the newspapers have today picked up on the totally unacceptable delay in repairing these tumble driers. I registered mine as faulty on Feb 8th 2016 and was given a repair date of November. In May 2016, I considered the “replacement scheme” but I was unable to order the machine I wanted and was unable to even place an advance order. So I waited. In November I had an email saying “sorry we missed your repair date” even though no specific date had ever been given. After a long phone call to a very harassed member of Whirlpool staff, I now have a date of 30th December for a repair. Will it happen? I will let you know.
One thing for certain – I will NEVER buy one of this company’s products again.

Steve, this is possibly because Which? issued yet another press release on this topic –
“One year on, Whirlpool still failing customers
5 December 2016 ”
I wish there was as much action as there was words.

Given the time the Which? Press release was issued perhaps more to do with knowing what the nationals were printing? I am not sure. Obviously on-line sources like the BBC can feed of it.

The trouble is that it illuminates how little Which? has actually done other than surveys when what was required early was an appreciation of the magnitude of the problem. AND of course some graphic testing to reproduce the problem so a very precise description of problem and cure could have been provided months ago.

Also what is missing on a more considered approach is the way this is handled compared to other jurisdictions and recall regimes. This may be the founding part of a change to what we seem to currently have. I am sure Whirlpool has terrific clout with the authorities but I would have hoped Which? would have been less hands-off in dealing with a muti-national.

However the feeling that Which?, with a Board made up of muti-national businessmen, is perhaps too flaccid in its approach. This may be an unjust perception but businessmen’s mind-sets generally are different to that of the general public.

pw3730 says:
5 December 2016

I’d had a Hotpoint tumble dryer for about 6 years without any problems when I was informed at the end of 2015 that it needed modifying. I registered and was informed the modification would be done towards the end of 2016. Initially I was happy to continue to use the tumble dryer in line with Whirlpool’s instructions as we’d always cleaned the filter after every use. However a comment (no 274) on a BBC News article on 11th March 2016 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35744313) re the faulty tumble dryers changed my mind:

“Always clean filter in mine and vent tube not blocked or kinked, but the machine still filled up with fluff from where It could readily get sucked by the fan into the element. Mine was about as bad as one here:- https://mjhservices.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/hotpoint-tumble-dryer/

After looking at the photos at the above link which show huge amounts of lint under the drum, I had a look at mine but was unable to see into it, but I did pull a lump of lint from under where the filter fits.

I was now not willing to risk the house and contents so I replaced the tumble dryer with one from another manufacturer. (I did look at the discounted ones offered by Whirlpool, but those offered at the time had mixed reviews and I was unhappy paying them money to replace their faulty product).

Great photos pw3730. That is the kind of detail that we should be seeing to get a feel for the problem. What is rather backhanded is that if it is this bad why has a fire not resulted?!!!!

I suppose some people perhaps only use a low temperature ..?

That’s an amazing photo of lint accumulation. I presume that something is very wrong with a machine for lint to accumulate within the case rather than the internal ducting, but all the more reason for the casing to be able to contain a fire if it starts. Thanks for posting pw3730.

Paul Nicholson says:
5 December 2016

What happens if I bought the dryer second hand from a British Heart Foundation Charity Shop? As I’m not the original purchaser am I still entitled to the modifications needed?

I do hope so, Paul. Please could you ask the company and let us know what they say.

Was the dryer one of those affected? if so I suspect the BHF were wrong to be selling it – they are required to only sell safe electrical products that have been tested. If it was not one of the affected models then it should not need any modification.

If it was bought before October last year, when the problem first came to light (no pun intended 🙂 ), then I’d expect the retailer to be responsible still. “The Sale of Goods Act explained” tells a retailer “Customers have exactly the same rights with second-hand goods as they do with new. See Your customer’s rights explained. However, because the items are second-hand the quality of items is judged less rigorously than when items are new, where reasonable.”

Point of interest malcolm, does the law on second hand goods not mean if they are bought from a business ? I have seen many cases where items bought from another person that went faulty were refused any help unless it was from the original purchaser , many of those cases appeared on Which. Does BHF qualify as a bona fida business in law in relation to a normal business guarantee, as I think there is at least a gray area here ??

The consumer legislation relates to retailers, not to private sales, as far as I know duncan. I presume BHF have a charity shop and see no reason why they should not be classed as a retailer. As Whirlpool have essentially taken on the retailer’s liabilities I would expect them to take on this one – it is a safety issue, not a warranty issue. That’s how I see it. Maybe Which? can advise?

malcolm – gov.uk dont see it like that -quote selling donated goods in a charity shop is not considered trading -end quote. In this case they cant be held liable . I will try and see if this URL works https:www.gov/guidance/charity-trading-selling-goods-and-services –NOPE !! STILL banned from direct URL,s this is my last try Lauren I aint trying again , I get the message -no more URL,s

On your advice Wavechange I will try again : https://www.gov.uk/guidance/charity-trading-selling-goods-and-services it worked Wavechange MY APOLOGIES to Lauren –and THANKS to you.

As far as I know they still have to sell goods that are safe, particularly electrical goods.

That’s my understanding too, but I do not know what this entails. I believe that charity shops PAT test electrical equipment that has a 13 amp plug fitted.

Perhaps Lauren @ldeitz could ask a colleague what owners of secondhand dryers should do if they have a machine that is affected by the safety issue.

British Heart Foundation is one of the few charities that will take in electrical appliances for resale and, in local outlets at least, clearly state that they carry out a thorough electrical safety test and repairs if commercially viable. BHF and other charity shops are certainly retailers and are subject to the legal obligations of such status.

The local BHF was rather ungrateful when I donated a collection of unused clothing from my parents’ house, so I found a local charity that accepted electrical goods. I first established that they did test electrical items prior to sale.

I recall that contributor ‘rarrar’ (who has not posted for over a year) said that he worked in a shop run by one of the big charities. He said that some donations came with continental two-pin plugs and he replaced the leads with ones fitted with UK three pin plugs.

Which is certainly “going wild ” with all the additional trackers , I can go to many websites with much less and even news media ones that the west doesnt like and find them more secure .

Agnes Pepe says:
10 December 2016

Early this year we were notified that our model needed modifying. We were told they would tell us when a mechanic would visit. Some six months later we got a second notification telling us to make an appointment .Once more telephone them and once again they told us somebody will contac us. Nobody did! ! Appalling negligence!

Darron Gibbard says:
20 December 2016

I registered for an appointment to fix my Aquarius tumble dryer, it took 6 months to get an appointment and then in April 2016 this I was given a time and date. Nobody turned up and then I attempted to get back in touch to find out what happened and nobody showed, I was told by the customer rep ” that the engineer was not working that day and he could not attend”. I then asked how many engineers were covering my area and they stated ‘only one’. It then took a further 4 months for my tumble dryer to be rectified. All in all it has taken over 12 months to fix my tumble dryer. I have subsequently scrapped the tumble dryer and won’t touch any Creda, Hotpoint, Indesit etc devices again as the service is appalling.

Jean Howard says:
2 January 2017

This is not about the item being debated. However, I have been looking for a site for over a year to post about the bad experience I had with this company!
Florence Textiles Ltd

I ordered a super King size duvet set + extra pillow cases from the said company over a year ago now. When it arrived It was faulty with many catches on it. I made arrangements to return it. However, because it was so heavy the postage was very expensive without paying for a tracking number so unfortunately, my husband didn’t get one. He is 75 and doesn’t know about shopping online and I forgot to tell him.

When I didn’t receive a refund I emailed the said company, and they asked for the tracking number! After I explained to them what had happened they didn’t respond to any of my emails or phone calls of which there were many!
When I realised that I was being ignored I rang paypal who offered a partial refund. However, I was still out of pocket for the majority of what I had paid. (I can’t remember now how much, but with the postage it was quite a lot of money!)
I realise the problem was not getting a tracking number, but surely the said company could have treated me with some respect! I am disgusted with this company and the terrible way I was treated! I have ended up with no duvet set and only a partial refund! I would never ever deal with them again!

P.s
Could anyone let me know which site I could have posted this on? Many thanks.

[This comment has been edited to align with commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Hi Jean – I suggest you post in this Conversation: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/consumer-rights-act-explained-return-faulty-goods-digital/ Best of luck with getting a refund.