Fresh concerns have been raised about the safety of Whirlpool tumble dryers, with consumers claiming that the company’s “fix” on 50,000 appliances has left some still at risk of catching fire.
Watchdog Which? said it had heard from consumers whose repaired products had caught fire or produced smoke – or the smell of burning – including a case where a mother was forced to flee with her two young children as a tumble dryer fire engulfed their garage.
Whirlpool issued a safety warning in 2015 after it found Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit tumble dryers had a fault making them a fire risk.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was ordered in May last year to carry out a review focusing on the effectiveness of Whirlpool’s fix and its handling of the modification programme, which Which? said needed to be released so that affected customers can be confident that their modified machines are safe.
Alex Neill, managing director of home products for Which?, said: “The regulator’s investigation cannot continue to drag on when serious questions remain unanswered about Whirlpool’s approach to the tumble dryer scandal.
“The OPSS must urgently release the findings of its investigation. If it finds Whirlpool has failed to put the safety of its customers first, the regulator must take robust enforcement action, including a full recall if necessary.”
Which? said that Whirlpool has claimed that there have not been any reports of the problem reoccurring with modified machines. However, one customer provided the consumer group with a report from a Whirlpool engineer that stated this as a cause after her modified machine started to produce smoke.
Another Which? member said his tumble dryer was modified in 2017, but just 12 months later it caught fire. The customer claims that fluff had built up around the heating element and he said he was lucky to be at home when the fuse tripped.
A Whirlpool spokesman said that it had been unable to “fully investigate” Which?’s claims, due to a lack of “essential details”.
He said: “We have total confidence in the tumble dryer modification, which was extensively tested before and after being implemented. UK regulatory bodies have repeatedly concluded that the modification is the most effective way of rectifying this issue.
“We thoroughly investigate all concerns relating to our products as soon as they are reported to us. We can confirm there have been no reported incidents where the modification has proven to be ineffective.”
He added: “We are concerned that misinformed and misleading criticism of the modification programme risks discouraging consumers from registering for this important safety upgrade. Nothing matters more to us than people’s safety, which is why we proactively raised this product safety issue and have worked diligently and responsibly to resolve it.”