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MPs criticise Peterborough based Whirlpool for 'woeful' response to faulty tumble dryers

Photo: ITV News

Tumble dryer manufacturer, which is based in Peterborough, has been criticised for its "woeful" and "inadequate" response to the discovery of a defect in some machines, a parliamentary report has found.

Up to one million defective tumble dryers are potential fire hazards in British homes. The House of Commons Business Committee demanded "urgent action" from the company to resolve a problem that has led to at least 750 fires since 2004.

And the cross-party committee called on the Government to consider establishing a single National Product Safety Agency, amid fears that cuts have undermined the effectiveness of local trading standards agencies.

It 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.

Whirlpool's UK headquarters is in Peterborough - the company owns the Hotpoint and Indesit brands. Credit: ITV News Credit: ITV Anglia

The committee's inquiry into risks from faulty electrical goods was triggered by last year's Grenfell Tower tragedy, when 71 people died in a fire thought 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.

In 2015/16 alone, 676 fires in England were caused by tumble dryers, leading to a total of 46 injuries and fatalities.

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

The company began a programme of modifying machines in customers' homes, initially advising them that they could continue using the tumble dryers while awaiting action.

This advice was withdrawn following a fire in a west London flat caused by an Indesit dryer in 2016.

And 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.

Fire service chiefs said faulty devices should be recalled Credit: Reuters

The Commons committee branded Whirlpool's response to the defect "inadequate", after hearing that only around 50% of an estimated 5.3 million affected dryers have received the necessary modification.

"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."

– Rachel Reeves, The House of Commons Business Committee

But the company 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.

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."

– Hotpoint spokesperson