Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst, pictured above, has informed the House of Commons that the Government intends to serve a recall notice to Whirlpool over the ongoing issues surrounding the company’s faulty tumble dryers, with another MP accusing the company of treating the situation as a “PR matter” and “apparently seeking to put commercial considerations before customer safety”.
Tolhurst – who is the MP for Rochester and Strood – called the notice an “unprecedented” move by the Government, coming almost four years after Indesit Group first identified a fault and announced a “potential safety issue” with two of its tumble dryer models.
The announcement set off a chain reaction, with several other Indesit brands – falling under the Whirlpool umbrella after the company bought Indesit Group in 2014 – revealing that they had also manufactured tumble dryer models that posed a fire risk.
To combat the problem, Whirlpool launched its modification programme for the 5 million affected tumble dryers that had been sold in the UK between April 2004 and October 2015. According to the Government, there are still up to 500,000 unmodified tumble dryers in UK homes.
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“Consumer safety is a Government priority,” Tolhurst told the House of Commons. “We have kept Whirlpool’s action under review. I can tell the House that we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as the next step of the regulatory process. This is unprecedented action.”
Speaking on Tolhurst’s announcement, the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – BEIS – Committee Rachel Reeves said: “Finally, over a year since we called for a recall of defective machines and 18 months since the BEIS Committee reported on Whirlpool’s inadequate response to safety flaws, the Government is at last showing some teeth and taking long overdue action on Whirlpool.
“The company’s modification of defective machines has proceeded at snail’s pace, leaving up to half a million unmodified and potentially unsafe tumble driers still in people’s homes. It’s not clear what has prompted this belated recall announcement – the Government need to set out why they have taken this action and how they meet ongoing concerns about those machines which have been modified.”
Reeves added: “Whirlpool have consistently sought to downplay the seriousness of these safety issues. Whirlpool have too often treated this sorry saga as a PR matter, apparently seeking to put commercial considerations before customer safety. The BEIS Committee will expect a full explanation of their actions when Whirlpool appear before us in July.”
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 was “low”, sparking a response from consumer group Which? calling the review “fundamentally flawed”.
In response to Tolhurst’s announcement about forcing a recall on Whirlpool, Which? campaigns head David Chaplin said: “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.”
“Safety is our number one priority and we remain committed to resolving any affected tumble dryers that have not yet been modified,” Whirlpool said in a statement. “To this end, we are in ongoing discussions with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to agree additional measures we have proposed to reach consumers who have not yet engaged with this safety programme.
“We have cooperated 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, or visit https://safety.hotpoint.eu/, https://safety.indesit.eu/ or https://safety-swan.eu.
“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.”