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9 Jan 2020

Fire-risk Whirlpool washing machines: refunds urged as recall begins

Which? urges Whirlpool to offer refunds to owners of fire-risk Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines to get the appliances out of their homes quickly
A fire symbol inside a washing machine

As Whirlpool launches its recall of more than half a million fire-risk washing machines, Which? is urging the company to offer its customers a refund.

The latest safety saga was announced in December, when hundreds of thousands of families were told just a week before Christmas that their Hotpoint or Indesit washing machines had a serious safety fault which has caused 79 fires.

Owners of washing machines purchased since 2014 have been urged to contact Whirlpool to check if their model is one of the affected appliances.

The recall, which begins today, gives owners of affected washing machines the option of a free repair or like-for-like replacement - but we don't think this goes far enough.

We're urging Whirlpool to offer consumers a refund and reimbursement for any out-of-pocket expenses caused by the recall, so people can quickly find a replacement for this essential household appliance.

Read our guide to get the full list of affected Hotpoint and Indesit models, answers to more of your questions, or leave your own.

Confusing advice has left thousands unable to do laundry

Which? is also concerned about conflicting advice from Whirlpool and the Government's product safety regulator about whether or not customers can continue to use the machines at all while they are left to wait for a repair or replacement.

This confusing advice has left thousands unable to do laundry over the festive period until they can get their machines repaired or replaced.

Previous Which? research into Whirlpool's fire-risk tumble dryer recall found that one quarter of affected customers were told they'd have to wait longer than six months to get a repair.

After finally issuing a formal recall of faulty tumble dryers following government intervention last year, Whirlpool eventually offered refunds of up to £150, with the value dependent on the age of the appliance.

A defunct washing machine

We're working with Andy Slaughter MP to demand refunds for Whirlpool customers. Sign the petition.

'I will not have another Whirlpool product in my house again'

Which? has been inundated by concerns from Whirlpool customers who have been in touch since the recall announcement, who say they have no confidence in the company's advice.

Many say they have been beset by customer service problems, or no longer want a Whirlpool-branded product in their homes following a series of safety scandals.

Fiona Thompson, Letchworth Garden City, has had to travel to her sister-in-law's house twice a week to do the laundry for her family of three.

'It's very inconvenient as we have to wear our clothes again and again, and I'm spending an hour a day hand washing things that I can't wait for,' she told us.

Fiona Thompson with her recalled Whirlpool washing
Fiona Thompson with her recalled Whirlpool washing machine. Photographer: Lloyd Sturdy

Fiona describes Whirlpool's response as an 'absolute disgrace', and has been forced to fork out hundreds of pounds for a new machine.

'I want a refund, not a repair of a replacement. I will not have another Whirlpool product in my house again,' she says.

'Its attitude to these problems is out of order and I want a refund'

Others, like Joanne Braithwaite, Stanford-le-Hope, have had no other choice than to continue using the fire-risk machine on cold wash cycles.

'It's just not practical for a family of four to do this,' explains Joanne. 'Especially when there still doesn't seem to be an answer about how long I'll have to wait for Whirlpool to do anything about it'.

Joanne was also affected by Whirlpool's recall of 800,000 tumble dryers earlier this year. 'Its attitude to these problems is out of order and I want a refund,' she demands.

Which? Head of Consumer Protection, Sue Davies said: 'It would clearly be unacceptable if customers were left for many months without adequate washing facilities in their homes, particularly when there is also no offer to cover consequential costs such as trips to the laundrette.

'The company should do the right thing and offer customers a refund, so people can get fire-risk machines out of their homes and quickly find a suitable replacement.

'There needs to be a full investigation about what Whirlpool knew about these machines and when. The government's failing Office for Product Safety and Standards must also be replaced by an independent regulator with real powers to keep dangerous products out of people's homes.'

I've got an affected Hotpoint or Indesit machine

Should I use a 20 degrees wash?

Which? doesn't recommend washing at 20 degrees for items like baby clothes or bed sheets, and it won't completely rid a washing machine of mould and bacteria.

Without being able to run a hotter service wash to deal with this problem, the machine and the clothes washed in it can begin to smell unpleasant.

How do I get my washing machine replaced or fixed?

To get your machine fixed or replaced, you'll need to register on the Whirlpool website. Frustratingly, the website is intermittently experiencing technical difficulties, so you might have to keep checking.

You can also call the Whirlpool customer service line on 0800 316 1442.

Can I ask Whirlpool for a refund?

It has been reported that Whirlpool believe refunds would not ensure the fire-prone machines were withdrawn from people's homes, which was its priority. It said it has put in a range of plans, including hiring engineers and building up call centre staffing.

By law, the manufacturer has an opportunity to repair or replace the machine, but as thousands of people have been left unable to do their laundry for a number of weeks, we're urging Whirlpool to offer full refunds to anyone who wants one.

Find out more about how to return faulty products.

Will I get reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses?

If you've had to pay out as a result of the recall (for example, the cost of removing and replacing fixed appliances in fitted kitchens), be sure to keep your receipts in case you're able to claim back the costs at a later date.

Read our guide to get the full list of affected Hotpoint and Indesit models, answers to more of your questions, or leave your own.