July 17, 2019
Consumer champion Which? has issued a warning to consumers to avoid buying plastic-backed fridges and freezers still on sale that may not conform to new safety standards that came into force last month.
The consumer body has been calling for a change to safety standards since 2017 and has carried out its own tests by setting fridges alight.
It found that a metal-backed fridge was able to contain the spread of fire for longer than a plastic-backed one.
The London Fire Brigade also warned of the possible dangers of plastic backing materials after the Grenfell Tower blaze in London.
Of course some manufacturers have already switched to using metal backing materials of their own volition, but Which? is concerned about the number of plastic-backed fridges and freezers that may still be for sale in stores.
Which? refers to the new tests as “effectively banning” these fire-risk models from being manufactured.
In reality, what has changed is that the test, which previously used a glow wire to assess fire resistance, now requires a product to withstand a naked flame for 30 seconds. Previous tests of metal-backed fridges showed that none caught fire after 30 seconds.
There is in fact no legal restriction on retailers selling old stock that passed the previous standard and this is what Which? wants to address by calling for them to be taken off sale.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards, said Which?, had not confirmed whether any measures were in place to ban the ongoing sale of products already in the retailers.
The consumer body said it felt this was “unacceptable”.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “These fire-risk products have been banned in the US for years, so new standards that will ensure they can no longer be manufactured for sale in the UK are long overdue. But it is deeply concerning that retailers may continue to sell these potentially dangerous models for many months to get rid of existing stock. Retailers with any stock that was produced to the old standard should make the safety of their customers the number one priority and take them off sale immediately.”
However, talking to BBC online, white-goods manufacturers association Amdea said it was “misleading to infer they are dangerous”.
Amdea acting chief executive Sian Lewis said: “It is disappointing that the public is being unnecessarily alarmed by a routine safety upgrade and there is no reason that the existing stock should not be sold. From [July 11] all products manufactured will meet the new standard. However it is disingenuous to infer that products previously made to the former standard are banned and misleading to infer they are dangerous.”
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