Andy Slaughter is Labour MP for Hammersmith. After a fire caused by a faulty Whirlpool tumble dryer damaged 26 flats in a block in his constituency, he’s calling on the government to urge the manufacturer to change its safety advice and issue a full product recall.
On 19 August, a fire broke out in a flat on the seventh floor of a high-rise block in Shepherds Court, Shepherds Bush, which is in my constituency.
The fire was caused by a faulty Whirlpool tumble dryer, and quickly spread throughout the building, causing damage to 26 flats across five floors. Up to 120 fire fighters attended the scene to put out the blaze.
The owner of the tumble dryer, Mrs Defreitas, was aware the machine was faulty and had followed Whirlpool’s safety advice to be present in the property and awake when the dryer was operating.
Despite this, a fire broke out and destroyed her home. Thankfully, the fire only caused a few minor injuries, with no loss of life. However, it could have been much worse.
Action urgently needed
There are approximately five million faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers in Britain. Over 120 models of dryer manufactured by Indesit, Swan, Creda and other lesser-known brands between 2004 and 2015 all share the same fault, whereby fluff gets trapped in the lint filter, overheats and can catch fire.
According to Whirlpool figures, approximately one million of these machines are believed to be out of use, while 1.4 million were registered and have now been replaced or repaired.
That means there are around 2.9 million unregistered Whirlpool tumble dryers that are yet to be modified. This is an enormous number of tumble dryers that pose a risk to life and property, and will do so as long as they continue to operate unmodified.
Since the Shepherds Bush fire, I have been calling on Whirlpool to change its safety advice to customers, as recommended by the London Fire Brigade, which advises consumers to unplug and cease using the machines with immediate effect.
I would also like Whirlpool to implement a full product recall, rather than merely replacing or modifying the faulty dryers.
What’s the government doing?
I have raised this issue on several occasions in the House of Commons, including in an Adjournment Debate I led on 13 September. The debate received cross-party support, but the response from the government was less than satisfactory.
As a result, I have since met with the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Margot James MP, to discuss the issue.
Unfortunately, the government has so far failed to accept the severity of the risk posed by these faulty tumble dryers, so Whirlpool continues to avoid having to take any further action to rectify the situation. This is incredibly disappointing, given how potentially dangerous these machines can be.
However, I will continue to work closely with Which?, the London Fire Brigade, my colleagues and consumers, to force Whirlpool to listen to our concerns and ensure that no further damage occurs as a result of its faulty dryers.
I have also launched a petition calling on the government to urge Whirlpool to change its safety advice to consumers and implement a full product recall.
If you would like to sign the petition, you can do so here.
This is a guest contribution by Andy Slaughter MP. All views expressed here are Andy’s own, not necessarily those shared by Which?.
What do you think of Andy’s suggestion for a full product recall of faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers? What would you like to see be done about the issue?