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Up to one million fire hazard Whirlpool-made tumble dryers still in use in British homes, report says

Hundreds of fires have been caused by fluff catching on a heating element in some tumble dryers. Credit: AP

Up to 1 million defective tumble dryers could still be in use in British homes due to an "inadequate" response to a defect by manufacturer Whirlpool, a parliamentary report claims.

A House of Commons committee has urged Whirlpool to take "urgent action" to resolve a problem that has led to at least 750 fires since 2004.

The inquiry into risks from faulty electrical items was triggered by last year's Grenfell Tower tragedy when 71 people died in a fire believed to have been started by a faulty Hotpoint fridge-freezer.

It found that the number of fires involving faulty electrical appliances in England has remained constant at between 4,300 and 5,000 a year.

Some 676 fires in England were caused by tumble dryers in 2015/16 leading to 46 injuries and deaths.

The inquiry also found plastic-backed fridge-freezers were linked to 214 fires with 27 serious injuries or fatalities in the same period and urged manufacturers to use safer materials in their products.

In 2015, Whirlpool alerted authorities that fires could be caused by fluff catching on a heating element in dryers marketed under its Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda and Proline brands.

Whirlpool said its response to correct defects has led to 99% of customers' issues resolved. Credit: AP

The company began modifying machines in customers' homes and advised them that they could could continue using the tumble dryers while awaiting action.

But this advice was withdrawn following a fire in a west London flat caused by an Indesit dryer in 2016.

A second defect in the door mechanism of some Whirlpool products was blamed for a fire in Llanwrst, north Wales, which killed two men in 2014.

The cross-party Business Committee committee branded Whirlpool's response to the defect "inadequate".

It reported that only around 50% of an estimated 5.3 million affected dryers have received the necessary modification.

Committee chair Rachel Reeves said: "Whirlpool's woeful response to the defect in its tumble dryers has caused huge worry to people with these appliances in their homes.

"Their delayed and dismissive response to correcting these defects has been inadequate and we call on Whirlpool to resolve issues urgently."

50%
of an estimated 5.3 million potentially defective tumble dryers have been modified, the report says.

But Whirlpool insisted that its ongoing campaign had achieved a resolution rate more than three times the industry average for a product recall, with 1.7 million machines modified and 99.9% of registered customers' issues resolved.

"After two years of extensive measures to raise awareness to this campaign - including directly contacting four million owners of these appliances - the number of consumers coming forward has fallen sharply," said the company in a statement.

"We continue to urge consumers to contact us immediately if they believe they still own an affected appliance. We can assure consumers that they if they contact us now, they can receive a resolution within one week."

646
The number of fires caused by faulty tumble dryers in England in 2015/16.

The committee also urged the government to establish a National Product Safety Agency, amid fears cuts in Trading Standards Services mean there are inadequate checks on goods.

The "vast majority" of councils have cut spending on trading standards, with 20 slashing it by more than 60% and one by 73% between 2010/11 and 2015/16.

The committee accused ministers of "watering down" recommendations for an overhaul of the product recall system put forward in 2016 by an independent review led by Lynn Faulds Wood.

"The Government must now implement the recommendations of (her) independent review on product safety, which they have been sitting on for nearly two years," Ms Reeves said.

A family was left homeless after an Indesit tumble dryer in 2016. Credit: Chelsea Garnham

The overall trading standards workforce has been reduced by 56% between 2009 and 2016.

Alex Neill, of consumer campaign group Which? said: "Despite hundreds of reported fires and numerous reviews, the UK's product safety system is still broken and potentially threatening the lives of millions of consumers.

"We have already seen the tragic consequences of companies behaving badly and delays to improving the system.

"The Government must no longer allow these dangerous products to remain in people's homes and must bring in immediate reforms."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it is considering the recommendations in Ms Faulds Wood's report and "will respond shortly".

A spokesman said: "The Government's top priority is to keep people safe and Britain's product safety requirements are among the highest in the world.

"We have already taken a number of steps to improve our product safety regime, including upgrading the Government's recalls website to make it clear to the public which white goods are safe to use."

Tumble dryers without the green dot could be defective. Credit: Indesit
  • Which models are the affected tumble dryers?

Defects have been identified with condenser and vented tumble dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015.

The affected brands are:

  • Hotpoint
  • Indesit
  • Creda
  • Proline

Whirlpool branded dryers were not affected by the safety notice.

Potential owners are advised to look for a green dot sticker inside the dryer - either on the door, the rim or the back panel.

If you cannot find the green dot can go to the Hotpoint or Indesit websites (owners of Creda dryers can check for their models on the Hotpoint site) for more information or to arrange a visit from an engineer to modify their appliances.

It is advised that affected tumble dryers should be unplugged and not used until an engineer has modified the product.