A house fire which led to the death of a 36-year-old father of two was caused by a faulty Beko fridge freezer, it was announced today.
The fault was caused by a defective defrost timer. As many as 500,000 fridge freezers manufactured between 2000 and 2006 could be affected by the safety issue.
The coroner leading the inquest has today made a number of recommendations to ensure greater protection for consumers. Among these is the recommendation that manufacturers could face a prison sentence if they fail to notify authorities of a fault.
You can read more about the events surrounding the inquest and find out whether you own an affected model in our Beko fridge freezer fire Q&A.
Inquest verdict into Beko fridge freezer fire
The inquest previously heard that Beko had been aware of a fault with some of its components in 2003 but had failed to take action to redress the problem.
Despite independent risk assessors confirming that some fridge freezers posed ‘a serious risk’ in 2008, Beko did not issue a safety notice at that time. Affected products were not recalled until after Mr Benjamin-Muthiah’s death in 2010.
Which? has investigated the extent and nature of appliance fires by submitting Freedom of Information requests to fire brigades. Which? members can read the full findings in our October 2013 article ‘Is your kitchen a fire risk?’ If you’re not already a member, you can take out a £1 trial to get instant access to this and all our other investigations and reviews.
Recommendations for safer appliances
In his verdict, the coroner recommended manufacturers face far stronger penalties for failing to recall products, including a possible prison sentence. Currently, manufacturers can be fined £5,000 – compared with the average cost of recalling an appliance being around £11 million.
The coroner also called for the creation of a government-funded website to record product recalls that can be accessed by consumers. And he suggested it becomes mandatory that appliances carry flame-proof labelling so they can be identified after a fire.