Manufacturers must stop making fire risk non-flame retardant plastic-backed fridges, freezers and fridge freezers immediately Which? is warning today, as it labels the current British Standard on cold appliances ‘deficient’ and ‘inadequate’.
Following a recent review of cold-appliance safety, the consumer champion has this week written to manufacturers to urge them to stop using non-flame retardant plastic backing on fridges, freezers and fridge freezers, which could create a fire risk in people’s homes due to the potential to accelerate the spread of fire.
The consumer champion is calling on manufacturers to ‘do the right thing’ by taking immediate voluntary action to end production of these appliances. The industry should also agree to more quickly bring in a tougher safety standard on fridges, freezers and fridge freezers that no longer allows potentially flammable backing material.
Which? has significant concerns about the safety of some models of fridges, freezers and fridge freezers on the UK market and has stopped recommending the purchase of any fridge, freezer, or fridge freezer with non-flame retardant plastic backing, removing best buys from dozens of models across its sites.
It is also now highlighting information on the backing material type for all individual refrigeration appliances on its website, noting concerns on more than 230 models, to help consumers with their choice when buying.
The consumer champion has taken the precautionary position in order to best protect people after evidence from London Fire Brigade indicated that the risk of a fire spreading is greater with non-flame retardant plastic backed models.
Advice to consumers who already own one of these models, is that refrigerator fires are rare and as such Which? isn’t calling for a full product recall. Which?’s July 2015 research into government fire data found that only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge-freezers, fridges or freezers.
Which? believes, based on the evidence, that non-flame retardant plastic backing material presents a safety risk due to its potential to allow an existing fire to spread – it isn’t the cause of fire itself – and future models should not be made in this way.
In addition, while cold appliances on the market may meet the current British Standard, this is ‘clearly deficient and inadequate’ in light of these concerns.
It is therefore vital that the whole industry takes a number of immediate steps to ensure that consumers’ safety. Which? is calling on all manufacturers to:
- Stop producing cold appliances with non-flame retardant plastic backs;
- Support the call to make the new standard stronger; and
- Ensure that all new cold appliances meet the proposed stronger standard immediately
This issue provides further evidence that the UK’s current fragmented product safety system is broken and could be putting people’s lives at risk. Which? is now calling on the Government to urgently set up a new national body to take responsibility for ensuring manufacturers keep households safe and get dangerous products out of people’s homes quickly before there is further tragedy or loss of life.
Alex Neill, Managing Director of Which? Home and Product Services, said:
“People who already have one of these models in their homes shouldn’t be alarmed, but our advice is that no-one should purchase one from new. Manufacturers must immediately stop making fridges, freezers and fridge freezers to a standard that they know is clearly deficient and inadequate, and could potentially be putting people’s lives at risk.
“This once again shows that the UK’s product safety regime is simply not fit-for-purpose and the Government can no longer continue to allow it to fail.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? has called for a national body following issues identified with the product safety system during the handling of the Whirlpool tumble dryer case.
- Controlled burn tests by the London Fire Brigade have shown a non-flame retardant plastic backed fridge going up in flames after just 90 seconds. The fire had to be extinguished after two and a half minutes because it was starting to overwhelm the testing room. In comparison, a fire set in a fridge with metal backing didn’t take hold for 20 minutes before self extinguishing.
- The current standard is BS EN 60335-2-24:2010 Household and similar electrical appliances. Safety. Particular requirements for refrigerating appliances, ice-cream appliances and ice makers and this is the standard being revised in line with the publication of IEC 60335-2-24: 2017 v7.2
- Which? is concerned that Government is being slow to respond to serious product safety incidents and subsequent reviews following consumer product related fires. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the Working Group on Product Recall and Safety set up in October 2016. The Government’s response to concerns raised by Which? has been poor, failing to acknowledge the importance of these safety issues.
- Which?’s report on ‘Strengthening the consumer product safety regime’ can be found at: http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/strengthening-the-consumer-product-safety-regime-467248.pdf
- A review by the National Audit Office published at the end of 2016 highlighted that local Trading Standards have overall lost 56% of full-time equivalent staff since 2009. Twenty services in England have reduced funding by over 60% since 2011 and some now have only one qualified officer. Protecting consumers from scams, unfair trading and unsafe goods, National Audit Office, December 2016
- Which? has advice on your rights when there’s a product recall on its Consumer Rights website: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/if-theres-a-product-recall-what-are-my-rights
- Which? published a list of 127 of the affected tumble dryers and advice on what to do if you are in possession of a faulty dryer at: http://www.which.co.uk/whirlpool