Government is set to recall half a million of Whirlpool tumble dryers in ‘unprecedented’ move as the company is accused of not being straight with customers over fire safety
- It emerged this year that five million faulty machines had caused 750 fires
- Now government says it could step in and force a recall of some machines
- MP says concern over ‘straightness of Whirlpool’ and its ‘unsafe products’
Published: 08:57 EDT, 11 June 2019 | Updated: 12:27 EDT, 11 June 2019
More than 750 fires have been caused by machines sold by Whirlpool. Now the government could step in and recall certain models
The Government is set to step in an order a recall of half a million Whirlpool tumble dryers amid claims the company is not being straight with customers over fire safety risks.
Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said the company has been informed of the Government’s intention to serve such a notice, labelling the move ‘unprecedented’.
Her remarks came after Conservative former minister Andrew Griffiths raised ‘great concern’ over Whirlpool’s ‘straightness’ and whether or not people have unsafe products in their homes.
It emerged earlier this year that more than five million machines had a design fault that has caused at least 750 household fires since 2004, many driving families out of their homes.
In April, the Office for Product Safety and Standards published a report which told Whirlpool to improve its risk management and communication with customers regarding repairs to tumble dryers to prevent fires.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Griffiths said: ‘The Office for Product Safety and Standards undertook a thorough review into the modification of Whirlpool tumble dryers, yet there still remains great concern not only about the straightness of Whirlpool, but whether people have unsafe products in their homes.
‘Can the minister update us on what’s happening in relation to Whirlpool?’
The government’s move would be ‘unprecedented’, according to the Business Minister
Ms Tolhurst replied: ‘Consumer safety is a Government priority.
‘I want to assure (Mr Griffiths) that we have kept Whirlpool’s actions under review and I can tell the House we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as a next step of the regulatory process. This is unprecedented action.’
Later, shadow business minister Gill Furniss said the OPSS had been ‘weak’ in the handling of its investigation into Whirlpool.
During a debate on changing the law to enhance consumer protections, Ms Furniss said: ‘Consumer groups led by Which? were incensed by what they called ‘fundamentally flawed investigation that appears to favour business interests over people’s safety’.
‘How does the minister suggest we have confidence in the OPSS if its first-ever investigation has been so widely criticised for its failure to properly tackle the issues at hand?’
Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst revealed the move in Parliament today
Responding for the Government, Ms Tolhurst told MPs: ‘I did inform the House that the Government has notified Whirlpool of their intention to issue a recall notice which is part of the regulatory process.
‘So I have to say whilst I have much respect for the honourable lady I have to totally disagree with the characterisation of the Government’s view in taking forward the concerns about Whirlpool and the role of the Office of Product Safety and Standards in that process.’
David Chaplin, from Which?, said: ‘For years we’ve been raising serious concerns about Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers as well as the cynical tactics – such as the reported use of non-disclosure agreements – that the company has used to put its corporate reputation ahead of public safety.
‘People’s lives have been put at risk for far too long, so it’s a hugely significant step that these machines are set to be recalled. But there will be serious questions if this recall only addresses the 500,000 unmodified machines that Whirlpool has already struggled to locate.
‘The Government must urgently explain what it is going to do about the millions of modified machines still in people’s homes, following serious concerns that have been raised by people who have experienced fires, smoke and burning despite the so-called fix.’
A Whirlpool Corporation spokeswoman said in a statement: ‘Safety is our number one priority and we remain committed to resolving any affected tumble dryers that have not yet been modified.
‘To this end, we are in ongoing discussions with the Office for Product Safety and Standards to agree additional measures we have proposed to reach consumers who have not yet engaged with this safety programme.
‘We have co-operated with OPSS throughout its recent review of the programme and welcome its findings that consumers whose tumble dryers have been modified can continue to use them safely.
‘The crucial message to anyone who still owns an affected dryer and has not already had it modified by Whirlpool is to contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905.
‘In the meantime, anyone with an affected dryer that has not been modified should unplug it and not use it until the modification has been completed.’