Faulty household appliances pose fire risk

New Which? analysis has revealed that faulty appliances have caused thousands of household fires, with washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers posing the biggest risk in the home.

We looked at over two years of Government data and found that washing machines (14%), tumble dryers (12%) and dishwashers (11%) are the cause of more faulty appliance fires than ovens (8%). In comparison, fires recorded for irons (1%), electric blankets (2%) TVs and microwaves (3%) were much lower. According to the figures, around 3,700 fires have been caused per year as a result of faulty appliances.

When we looked at the data, some brands appear to cause a higher number of fires compared to others. The data shows a larger number of fires connected to Hoover and Candy washing machines than some other brands. There were more fires caused by Hotpoint dishwashers and tumble dryers than other manufacturers but this is probably not surprising given Hotpoint issued a public safety notice on one of its dishwasher ranges earlier this year. However, we found that there were as many instances of fires recorded relating to Hotpoint’s DWF3 dishwasher range, which hasn’t been recalled. Hotpoint has assessed this model and has said the risk of fire is very low.

The law states that all appliances must be safe and if something goes wrong manufacturers should take action, like recalls. Which? has found that a quarter (23%) of consumers have owned a product that was subject to a recall or safety notice. If an appliance is recalled, the manufacturer generally tries to contact customers directly as well as publicising the notice more widely.  We found the majority of people (58%) were sent information directly from the manufacturer. Two-thirds (67%) of those that received information contacted the company for a repair or refund and a quarter (23%) stopped using the product or threw it away. Worryingly, 5% continued to use the product.

Damage caused by faulty appliances can be costly. In one example we found that a fire caused by a problem with a dishwasher caused £58,000 worth of damage to a Which? member’s home.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“It’s shocking that everyday household appliances can pose such a danger. People’s safety must be the priority, so manufacturers should act fast to recall products as soon as they realise they’re faulty.

“We want the Government and manufacturers to do more to analyse and release the data they collect on appliance fires to help reduce the thousands of fires that are caused by faulty products.”

Notes for editors

1.    We analysed data collected by fire brigades in England, Scotland and Wales on the causes of fire from 2011 to 2013. Fires caused by appliances where the brand was not recorded was excluded, when working out the proportion of fires of each brand accounted for. It’s not possible to say beyond doubt which brands are most likely to catch fire. Most fires are never forensically investigated – the fire officer decides the cause, and in some cases doesn’t record details such as the manufacturer of the appliance or the model number. We analysed the data collected by fire brigades about the cause of fires and compared these against manufacturers’ market shares, although these vary over time so aren’t definitive.

2.    We surveyed 1,091 members of the public about product recalls in July 2013.

3.    If you have a faulty dishwasher or washing machine, visit our consumer rights website to find out how you can get your appliance repaired or replaced.

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