Fresh concerns over Whirlpool tumble dryers after ‘repaired’ dryers catch fire, Which? reports

A CONSUMER  group has called for the urgent release of a report into Whirlpool's fire-risk tumble dryers amid concerns about the company's programme to fix potentially dangerous machines.

Thursday, 21st February 2019, 10:34 am
Updated Thursday, 21st February 2019, 11:39 am
Which? has raised concerns about the safety of 'repaired' tumble dryers

Which? said it had heard from more than 30 owners who reported that supposedly fixed dryers had caught fire or produced smoke or a smell of burning, including a case where a mother was forced to flee with her two young children as fire engulfed their garage.

In some cases, this appeared to have been as a result of fluff catching on the heating element, the issue the modification was designed to fix, the watchdog said.

Which? said one customer had provided a report from a Whirlpool engineer which gave this as a cause after her modified machine started to produce smoke.

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Which? has raised concerns about the safety of 'repaired' tumble dryers

Another Which? member said his dryer caught fire 12 months after it was modified in 2017 and claimed that fluff had built up around the heating element.

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Whirlpool said there had been no reported incidents where the modification had been proven to be ineffective.

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.

Whirlpool issued a safety warning in 2015 after it found Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit dryers had a fault making them a fire risk and launched a programme of modifying faulty machines.

Which? said affected customers needed ‘urgent clarity’ about the safety of the fix and called for the consumer minister to issue a recall if this could not be guaranteed.

It is continuing to advise affected customers to accept the fix until the OPSS publishes the results of its investigation.

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.’

A Whirlpool spokesman 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.’

Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: ‘Government ministers need to explain why, nine months on, the OPSS has still not delivered its review on this major product safety issue.

‘Significant concerns continue about the safety of Whirlpool machines and it's vital that customers get the protection they deserve. The OPSS must disclose its findings and, if necessary, set out the steps it will take to ensure this product safety issue is urgently resolved.’

London Fire Brigade's deputy assistant commissioner Charlie Pugsley said: ‘Potentially dangerous tumble dryers remain in the homes of thousands of people and those customers affected need to know that Whirlpool's solution is safe.

‘We have already expressed concern about the modification and any problem that could lead to a fire risk may not be apparent for some time.

‘We have seen fires in modified tumble dryers caused by a range of faults and suspect that there could be other incidents nationally. Any report or information about the safety of these modifications should be made public.’