Comment: Government must take action to prevent potentially deadly appliance fires

Our homes are full of labour-saving devices.

From the kitchen to the living room, bathroom and utility room, we have machines and appliances doing a lot of the heavy lifting of modern living - washing and drying clothes, keeping our food cool or frozen or cooking it, cleaning our carpets, bringing entertainment into our homes.

In fact we rely on “white goods” so much that the electrical appliance market in the UK is worth around £4.1bn.

finding fault

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Which? analysis has shown that faulty washing machines and tumble dryers are the most high-risk appliances, causing more than a third of fires (35%) between April 1 2014 and March 31 2016.Other high risk appliances for the same period include cookers and ovens (11%), dishwashers (10%) and fridges, freezers and fridge freezers (8%).For more information on which brands cause most concern, and to sign our petition visit

While they’re useful we ultimately need these products to be safe. Yet appliances such as faulty washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge freezers are linked to roughly 60 fires a week in the UK.

New Which? analysis collated from Freedom of Information requests of the Home Office and fire and rescue services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has shown that the number of fires caused by malfunctioning appliances has stayed at roughly the same level for five years, causing close to 16,000 potentially deadly fires.

No time for inaction

Of course, everyone is now aware of the horror that can occur when an appliance fire starts, as the terrible events of Grenfell - started by a fridge freezer - prove. At Which? we’re also aware that government action to keep dangerous goods out of people’s homes is woefully short of what is needed.

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We have now written to ministers giving them 90 days to publish an action plan for the new Office for Product Safety and Standards which was launched just last month, which must set out the true scale of the product safety risks we face and the immediate steps which need to be taken to avoid future fires.

And that must include the actions needed to remove the remaining one million fire-risk Whirlpool tumble dryers from people’s homes.

All of our demands are part of our new campaign to “End Dangerous Products”, which demands that manufacturers immediately remove appliances from people’s homes when they’re known to be faulty.

For we also know that only between ten and 20 per cent of people will actually return a faulty product when it’s recalled - so recalls alone simply aren’t effective.

Enough is enough. The government must take action now to stop people being put at risk.

* Got a faulty appliance or another consumer issue? Ask me about it at [email protected]