Revealed: the home appliances more prone to catching fire

Which? reveals that thousands of fires have been caused by faulty household appliances. Washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers pose the biggest risk of fire in our homes.

Having obtained the latest government figures for domestic fire incidents in Great Britain through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, we found that nearly 12,000 fires were caused by a faulty household appliance between January 2011 and March 2014. When we compared the figures to our market intelligence for brands’ market share, we also found that some brands appeared more prone to catching fire than others.

175 Hoover washing machines caught fire – 12% of the total number of washing machine fires in which the brand was recorded. We think that Hoover’s market share is probably smaller than 12% – and that its number of washing machine fires is disproportionately high.

Hotpoint – one of the largest appliance brands – accounted for 34% (349) of the tumble dryer fires recorded and 38% (410) of dishwasher fires – again this relates to fires in which the brand was recorded. While it’s possible that Hotpoint accounts for as much as a third of the tumble dryer market, its share of the dishwasher market is likely to be less than 38%, suggesting that the number of Hotpoint dishwasher fires is higher than expected.

Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the products we buy are safe and, where a problem is found, to take steps to address the risk. If an appliance is found to be dangerous, manufacturers issue a safety notice to alert owners, but knowing who owns their products can prove problematic.

Hotpoint and Indesit estimate that 279,000 of the dishwashers they have recalled have not been repaired and could potentially still be in peoples’ homes – it has fixed 76,387 so far.

Research carried out by Electrical Safety First (ESF) has found that only around a third of UK consumers register appliances. The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) has launched a website (registermyappliance.org.uk) where you can register appliances for around 85% of UK brands. Which? welcomes this scheme, but feels that a key barrier to registration is consumers’ concern that personal details could be used for marketing purposes.

We registered 10 fridge-freezers and found that six out of 10 brands required those registering to opt-out of any marketing from the manufacturer, and five of these also required users to opt out of receiving marketing from third parties.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“It’s shocking that everyday household appliances can pose such a danger. More needs to be done to protect consumers from this risk and it’s crucial that products known to be dangerous are recalled as quickly as possible.”

“Owners should also be reassured they can register their appliance without inadvertently signing up for marketing. We want fire data to be monitored and shared with manufacturers and local authorities, allowing them to act quickly in the event of a recall. Our findings will be submitted to the Government’s product recall review currently underway and we look forward to hearing its recommendations.”

For more details on this story, please visit: www.which.co.uk/appliancefires

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

  1. In February 2015, Which? submitted an FOI and obtained the latest government figures for domestic fire incidents in Great Britain, attended by fire and rescue services between January 2011 and March 2014. The data relates to appliances that are faulty, incorrectly installed or improperly maintained and lists the appliance type and brand, where identifiable. Where the brand is not identified, we have excluded the incidence from our brand analysis.
  2. For the three appliances with the highest number of fires- washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers – we calculated brands’ proportions of fires and compared it to our market intelligence for its market share. We’ve highlighted the instances where we can confidently say that a brand’s proportion of fires is probably higher than its market share.
  3. Research carried out by Electrical Safety First (ESF) has found that only around a third of UK consumers register appliances (online survey of 4,164 UK adults, September 2014).
  4. On 13 March 2015 the Government asked Lynn Faulds Wood to lead a review of the UK’s system for the recall of unsafe products.  The review will focus on how enforcement can be more effective and explore consumer understanding of the process. The review is expected to conclude later this year.  Which? submitted written evidence in April 2015 and will submit this latest investigation to the review.
  5. The proportion of fires caused by faulty appliances between January 2011 and March 2014, based on government fire data was as follows (note: the number of fires includes where the brand was unknown): washing machines (14%, 1723 fires); tumble dryers (12%, 1456 fires); dishwashers (11%, 1324 fires); cookers; (9%, 1080 fires); Fridge-freezer/fridge/freezer (7%, 861 fires); central heating (5%, 606 fires); microwave (4%, 427 fires); toaster/grill (4%, 495 fires); TV (3%, 372 fires); electric blanket (2%, 236 fires); washer dryers (2%, 225); and irons (1%, 92 fires).

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