Belfast Telegraph

Whirlpool censured over slow response to fire risk dryers

Whirlpool
Whirlpool

By Josie Clarke

It is "extraordinary" that as many as 800,000 defective tumble dryers could still remain in people's homes four years after Whirlpool revealed they are a fire risk, MPs have said.

The domestic appliance maker's response to handling the safety flaws too often "owed more to PR management" than to making the machines safe for customers, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee chairwoman Rachel Reeves said.

The committee's investigation into Whirlpool criticises the company for its slow response in modifying or replacing faulty machines while also condemning the firm's use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to "silence customers".

It said Whirlpool had tried to deflect the concerns of safety organisations and customers rather than focus on practical steps to address the safety problems.

The company finally launched a full recall involving 500,000 dryers in July following a lengthy 'safety campaign' that saw 1.7 million products modified.

The recall relates to certain models of Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline dryers built between 2004 and 2015.

However, Whirlpool told MPs earlier this year the true number of faulty tumble dryers in homes across the country could be 800,000 and it was working to modify those affected.

Whirlpool also revealed that, in recent years, it had logged 54 fires in its tumble dryers - three of those were models which had already been updated.

The BEIS Committee report welcomed the recall, but said it took "far too long" for the Government to force the move.

It also expressed concerns, shared by safety organisations, about the safety of Whirlpool's modification.

The report calls on the Government to press ahead with a new review of the safety of the company's modification.

Ms Reeves said: "Whirlpool's response to fixing safety flaws in its tumble dryers has too often owed more to PR management than to taking the practical steps to make its machines safe for customers.

"The Whirlpool tumble dryer saga has dragged on for far too long, leaving customers, now four years on, still fearing they may have potentially unsafe tumble dryers in their homes. Whirlpool has failed to live up to the duties it owes to its customers.

"Whirlpool's prime obligation was to fix the safety issues with its tumble dryers rather than engage in disgraceful tactics such as using NDAs to silence customers who have been the victim of fires involving its products."

Whirlpool vice president Jeff Noel said: "People's safety is our top priority, which is why Whirlpool welcomes the report by the BEIS Select Committee to raise awareness of ongoing safety improvements in the UK.

"Through our ongoing campaign we have resolved this potential safety issue - which concerns tumble dryers produced by the previous owner of the company - for more than 1.75 million people. This is up to five times the average success rate for a product recall in the UK.

"We applaud any efforts that create uniform standards that are applied across all industries. We pledge to continue to work with the OPSS and members of the BEIS Select Committee and Government to help advance product safety in the UK."

Martyn Allen, technical director of the charity Electrical Safety First, said: "Today's report is a damning indictment of Whirlpool's handling of their recall, and echoes many of our own concerns."

Whirlpool urged those who own an affected tumble dryer and have not already had it replaced or modified to contact the company immediately on 0800 151 0905 or go to www.whirlpool.co.uk/dryerrecall.

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