Which? is calling on the Government to urgently publish the results of a report into Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers – as fresh concerns emerge about the company’s fix programme and handling of an issue that may have left up to 500,000 fire-risk machines in people’s homes.
Given the potential risks, affected customers need urgent clarity on whether Whirlpool’s fix is safe. If that can’t be guaranteed the Consumer Minister must step in and finally issue an urgent recall of all affected machines.
Which? has heard from more than 30 owners who have said that their ‘fixed’ tumble dryers have caught fire, produced smoke or the smell of burning, including a case where a mother was forced to flee with her two young children as a tumble dryer fire engulfed their garage.
In some cases this appears to be as a result of fluff catching on the heating element – the very issue the modification was designed to fix.
Whirlpool has claimed that there have not been any reports of the problem reoccurring with modified machines. However, one customer provided Which? with a report from a Whirlpool engineer that stated this as a cause after her modified machine started to produce smoke.
Another Which? member said his tumble dryer was modified in 2017, but just 12 months later it caught fire. The customer claims that fluff had built up around the heating element and he said he was lucky to be at home when the fuse tripped.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was ordered in May last year to carry out a review focusing on the effectiveness of Whirlpool’s fix and its handling of the modification programme.
It must now urgently release the findings of its investigation, so affected customers can be confident that their modified machines are safe.
Customers who have already received a fix should look out for any signs of smoke, burning or fire when using their appliance, and report it immediately to the manufacturer. However, given the established fire risk of the unmodified tumble dryers, Which? continues to advise affected customers to accept the fix until the OPSS publishes the results of its investigation.
Whirlpool must also urgently trace the fire-risk tumble dryers that are still in people’s homes. An estimate by the company suggests that there are potentially between 300,000 and 500,000 machines that still need to be identified.
Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products, said:
“The regulator’s investigation cannot continue to drag on when serious questions remain unanswered about Whirlpool’s approach to the tumble dryer scandal.
“It’s very concerning that hundreds of thousands of at-risk machines are still in people’s homes, and that there is still uncertainty over whether the repair programme actually works.
“The OPSS must urgently release the findings of its investigation. If it finds Whirlpool has failed to put the safety of its customers first, the regulator must take robust enforcement action, including a full recall if necessary.”
Notes to editors
- A Whirlpool spokesperson said: “We have total confidence in the tumble dryer modification, which was extensively tested before and after being implemented.
“UK regulatory bodies have repeatedly concluded that the modification is the most effective way of rectifying this issue.
“We thoroughly investigate all concerns relating to our products as soon as they are reported to us. We can confirm there have been no reported incidents where the modification has proven to be ineffective.
“We have been unable to fully investigate the allegations made by Which? as it has failed to provide essential details to support its claims, despite repeated requests for this information. We cannot therefore offer a considered response to Which?’s claims, and we question the reliability of its research methods.
“We are concerned that misinformed and misleading criticism of the modification programme risks discouraging consumers from registering for this important safety upgrade. Anyone who believes they may still own an affected appliance should contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905 and they can receive the modification within one week.”
“Nothing matters more to us than people’s safety, which is why we proactively raised this product safety issue and have worked diligently and responsibly to resolve it.”
- Which? has provided the OPSS with information about the cases it has highlighted as part of its investigation.
- In October 2017 Whirlpool admitted that, of the five million machines that were initially identified as being a fire-risk, around a million machines still required modification. When Which? asked for an update in February 2019, Whirlpool said 1.7 million cases had been “resolved” since the start of their modification campaign and that it estimates between 300,000 to 500,000 fire-risk tumble dryers are potentially still in people’s homes.
- More than 100 Creda, Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline and Swan tumble dryer models (all brands owned by Whirlpool) made between April 2004 and October 2015 could pose a fire risk.
The fault in the dryers could lead to fires if excess fluff comes into contact with the heating element.
It’s known that at least 750 fires have been reported since 2004 that involved affected Creda, Hotpoint, Indesit and Proline dryers.
- A case study video is available on request.
- Which? and Watchdog find failings in Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryer fix:
- Fire-risk dryers: Whirlpool and retailers are giving incorrect safety advice that could be exposing millions to danger: https://press.which.co.uk/whichpressreleases/fire-risk-dryers-whirlpool-and-retailers-are-giving-incorrect-safety-advice-that-could-be-exposing-millions-to-danger/
- Whirlpool tumble dryer safety alert, what are my rights?: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/whirlpool-tumble-dryer-safety-alert