We’re calling for manufacturers to reject inadequate current safety standards and immediately stop making non-flame retardant plastic-backed fridges, freezers and fridge freezers.
Following a recent review of cold appliance safety, we’ve written to manufacturers this week urging them to stop using these backings, as they could create a fire risk in people’s homes due to their potential to accelerate the spread of fire.
We’re calling on manufacturers to do the right thing by taking immediate voluntary action to end production of these appliances. We’re also asking the industry to accelerate the introduction of tougher safety standards on cold appliances, so that the use of potentially flammable backing material is no longer allowed.
Find out more about fridge freezer, fridge and freezer safety.
Fridge and freezer safety advice for consumers
Due to these safety concerns, we’d no longer recommend that you buy a fridge, freezer or fridge freezer with a non-flame retardant plastic back.
We’ve taken this precautionary position in order to best protect consumers, after evidence from London Fire Brigade indicated that the risk of a fire spreading is greater with non-flame retardant plastic-backed cold appliances and following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.
Not all cold appliances come with non-flame retardant plastic backs. To make it easier to see which do, our fridge freezer, fridge and freezer reviews now indicate what the backing material of each appliance is and whether it is non-flame retardant. In total we have stopped recommending almost 240 products, dozens of which were previously Best Buys.
What if I already own one of these appliances?
If you already own one of these models, please be assured that refrigerator fires are rare. Our July 2015 research into government fire data found that only 7% of fires caused by faulty appliances were caused by fridge freezers, fridges or freezers. The concern is that the backing material allows an existing fire to spread – it isn’t the cause of fire itself.
We aren’t therefore recommending that you replace your current appliance. But when you do come to need a new fridge, freezer or fridge freezer, you should buy one with flame-retardant backing.
Safety standards are inadequate
All cold appliances on the market have to meet the current British Standard before they can go on sale. But in the light of these concerns, this British Standard is clearly deficient and inadequate. It is therefore vital that the cold appliances industry takes a number of immediate steps to ensure consumers’ safety. Which? is calling on all manufacturers to:
- Stop producing cold appliances with non-flame retardant plastic backs
- Support the call to make the new standard stronger
- Ensure that all new cold appliances meet the proposed stronger standard immediately.
Do more to protect consumers
This issue provides further evidence that the UK’s current fragmented product safety system is broken and could be putting people’s lives at risk.
We are calling on the government to urgently set up a new national body to take responsibility for ensuring manufacturers keep households safe and get dangerous products out of people’s homes quickly, before there is further tragedy or loss of life.
Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home and product services, said: ‘People who already have one of these models in their homes shouldn’t be alarmed, but our advice is that no-one should purchase one from new.
‘Manufacturers must immediately stop making fridges, freezers and fridge freezers to a standard that they know is clearly deficient and inadequate, and could potentially be putting people’s lives at risk.
‘This once again shows that the UK’s product safety regime is simply not fit-for-purpose and the Government can no longer continue to allow it to fail.’
Find out more about how Which? is battling on product safety.