The Government is to order Whirlpool to issue a safety recall on 500,000 tumble-dryers in an “unprecedented” move sparked by continuing concerns over safety.
Business minister Kelly Tollhurst announced the news yesterday in the House of Commons when former business minister Andrew Griffiths said that there were still great concerns [over the tumble dryers] and “whether people have unsafe products in their homes”.
Tollhurst answered by saying: “Consumer safety is a Government priority and I assure him that we have kept Whirlpool’s action under review. I can tell the House that we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as the next step of the regulatory process. This is unprecedented action.”
Rachel Reeves, Labour chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS), is reported by The Guardian online as saying the move was “long overdue”.
“Finally, over a year since we called for a recall of defective machines and 18 months since the BEIS committee reported on Whirlpool’s inadequate response to safety flaws, the Government is at last showing some teeth,” she said.
Whirlpool did not issue an official ‘recall’ on the affected products back in 2015, but instead issued a safety notice for what it estimated as 5.3 million products.
More than 100 Creda, Hotpoint, Indesit, Proline and Swan tumble-dryer models (brands owned by Whirlpool) made between April 2004 and October 2015 were cited as posing a possible fire risk.
Whirlpool undertook to contact owners of affected machines and introduced a programme of engineer visits to rectify the problem, which allowed fluff to get past the filter and potentially come into contact with heating elements.
The Government said that the fault may have been responsible for as many as 750 fires over an 11-year period.
In April, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) published a report that suggested Whirlpool needed to “improve its management of risk; set up a more rigorous system of quality assurance to ensure modifications are correctly installed; and reach affected consumers in more creative ways to minimise the risk of faulty machines still being in people’s homes”.
The OPSS told the Government last month that it estimated there were still 500,000 tumble-dryers that had not been modified.
A Whirlpool Corporation spokeswoman said in a statement: “Safety is our number one priority and we remain committed to resolving any affected tumble-dryers that have not yet been modified.
“The crucial message to anyone who still owns an affected dryer and has not already had it modified by Whirlpool is to contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905. In the meantime, anyone with an affected dryer that has not been modified should unplug it and not use it until the modification has been completed.”
Consumer champion Which? has pursued a long-running campaign voicing concerns over the safety of these products.
Commenting on the recall announcement, David Chaplin, Which? head of campaigns, said: “For years we’ve been raising serious concerns about Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers as well as the cynical tactics – such as the reported use of non-disclosure agreements – that the company has used to put its corporate reputation ahead of public safety.
“People’s lives have been put at risk for far too long, so it’s a hugely significant step that these machines are set to be recalled. But there will be serious questions if this recall only addresses the 500,000 unmodified machines that Whirlpool has already struggled to locate.
“The Government must urgently explain what it is going to do about the millions of modified machines still in people’s homes, following serious concerns that have been raised by people who have experienced fires, smoke and burning despite the so-called fix.”