Posted 16th May

Customers dispute OPSS's Whirlpool dryer findings

16th May 2019 - 15:50pm
kitchen, which?, consumer group, fire, safety, appliance, product, whirlpool, indesit, hotpoint, tumble dryer, modification, fix, repair, appliance

A new report by Which? has detailed the accounts of several consumers who claim to have had their fire-risk tumble dryers from Whirlpool brands catch fire even after the modification designed to make the appliances safe to use has been carried out.

In April, the Office for Product Safety and Standards – OPSS – published its review of the Whirlpool tumble dryer modification programme, finding that the risk of fire, harm or injury from lint fires in modified dryers is “low”.

At the time, Which? responded to the conclusion of the report, calling it “fundamentally flawed”. Now, the consumer group has reported on several consumers calling the findings “astounding and worrying”, “misleading” and “ignoring the problem”.

Customer account
According to Which?, Richard Smith from Pembrokeshire was “the victim of a recent house fire involving a repaired and supposedly made-safe tumble dryer”. Smith told the consumer group his Indesit IDV75UK tumble dryer was modified in 2017 as part of Whirlpool’s repair programme, but said it caught fire in March 2019 causing “significant damage” to his home.

Smith said his partner and her two children were in the house when the dryer caught fire. According to Smith, the “whole dryer was engulfed in flames”, with Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service called to deal with the fire. The fire service’s incident report “states that the tumble dryer was the cause of fire”, Which? said, adding that Whirlpool’s own investigation is ongoing.

“I find the OPSS conclusion both astounding and worrying,” Smith told the consumer group. “They say that there’s a low risk of harm or injury from fires in modified tumble dryers. But I’ve seen one of these modified dryers catch fire, severely damage our home and put the lives of my family in danger.”

NDA allegations
Several other consumers’ accounts of their modified tumble dryers catching fire have been reported by Which?, while earlier this month, allegations arose that Whirlpool “made a customer agree not to speak out after their modified tumble dryer caught fire”, the consumer group said.

Whirlpool disputed this claim, saying it doesn’t use standalone non-disclosure agreements when resolving consumer compensation claims “but they may include confidentiality provisions in standard settlement documents”. The company noted to Which? that it has “not sought to enforce those provisions against consumers in this context”.

In response to Which?’s new report, Whirlpool said it is investigating Richard Smith’s case, noting that “the cause hasn’t been ascertained and it’s assisting in every way it can”. Which? added: “It said that safety is its number one priority, it’s 100% committed to repairing unmodified machines, has total confidence in the proven effectiveness of the modification and that this is supported by UK regulatory bodies, including the OPSS.”

Long-term impact
After the OPSS published its findings last month, the London Fire Brigade – LFB – said it was “vital” for Whirlpool and the OPSS to “continue to closely monitor the risk of fire in modified machines in case longer-term problems arise” as there is currently “limited data” showing the long-term impact of the modification.

The LFB added that it would like to see the OPSS “demand manufacturers publish information that clearly explains their risk assessments of faulty goods before giving advice on whether the product is safe to use”.

“This would mean that consumers and agencies like fire and rescue service would be able to see the full picture,” the LFB said, adding: “Manufacturers have to do the risk assessment anyway, so why not publish them?”

Click here to read more about the Whirlpool fire-risk tumble dryer case

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