An independent review into unsafe products and recalls has been published today, three months after Whirlpool admitted that hundreds of its dryers could pose a fire-risk.
The review, commissioned by the government and chaired by Lynn Faulds Wood, focused on how recall enforcement can be more effective when products are found to be unsafe. And as the government review was published, Whirlpool, the manufacturers of fire-risk Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers were continuing to advise owners of safety-alert affected dryers to continue to use their machines.
UK consumer product recall review and government response
The independent review made a range of recommendations to improve the product-recall system, including to establish a national product safety agency, or ‘centre of excellence’, to coordinate the system. This should have an official trusted website with up-to-date information on unsafe products and recalls.
Other recommendations include better funding, training and resources for trading standards, and to research evidence-based ways to reach consumers and influence their behaviour.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has responded to these recommendations, arguing that the creation of a new public body would not be an effective use of taxpayers’ money.
Instead, it says that the ‘centre of excellence’ should be virtual – though this website would not be led by the government. The government intends to set up a steering group of key stakeholders – including manufacturers, trade associations and consumers groups – to look into what the ‘centre of excellence’ might look like.
This steering group is expected to come back with an answer within six months of their first meeting, and the government will publish a progress report in due course.
The Which? response
Responding to the publication of the Lynn Faulds Wood’s review for BIS into product recalls, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:
“Recent events have once again shown how everyday household appliances can pose a real danger, yet the system for protecting people remains hopelessly out of date. Much more than a steering group needs to be done to protect consumers from faulty products.
We urge the Government to put more pressure on manufacturers to move faster to alert consumers swiftly and effectively about product faults and recalls.”
Fire-risk tumble dryers
Which? research revealed that more than 100 models of Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers could pose a fire risk after it was reported that the dryers had caused 750 fires between 2004 and 2015.
But three months on from the manufacturer admitting that many of its dryers could catch fire, it’s still refusing to publish a full-list of the affected models. Instead, owners are being asked to call or go online to check if their dryer is at risk.
Is your tumble dryer a fire-risk?
The safety alert affects Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda dryers made between April 2004 and October 2015. To find out if your dryer is affected, go to safety.hotpoint.eu (for Hotpoint and Creda) or safety.indesit.eu and enter your model and serial number. You can also call to check on 0800 151 0905 and you can register your dryer for a service and modification online or over the phone.
If your dryer has a green dot on the inside of the door rim, on the door or on the back panel, this means that it won’t be affected by the safety-alert.
Waiting times and reduced-price replacements
With ten week wait-times reported for customers who have registered their appliances, Whirlpool are offering replacement dryers for free for customers whose products are under one year old. If your product is older, instead of a repair, you can opt for a new dryer at a reduced price – £59 for a vented model or £99 for a condenser.
Whirlpool told us that it believes that online checks allowing a customer to register for a repair are better than publishing a list of model numbers. It went on to say that dryers are safe if you clean the lint filter after every use and don’t leave the dryer unattended. It also told us that it’s so far contacted 3.5 million of the estimated 5.3 million owners of affected dryers in the UK and that its outreach campaign was continuing.
Which? view on Whirlpool tumble dryer fire risk
Whirlpool needs to do more to publicise the extent of the dryer-fires problem starting with publishing a full-list of the affected dryers. If you own one of the affected dryers, our advice is to register for a service with the manufacturer and to not use it until it’s been serviced.