A solicitor who represents over 50 people who have been affected by Whirlpool appliance fires, including the families of the late Douglas McTavish and Bernard Hender who died in a fire caused by a Whirlpool tumble dryer, has backed calls by consumer organisation Which? to urge the Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to publish findings of its investigations into Whirlpool tumble dryers.
Which? has said that it has received reports from 30 consumers who say they have experienced problems with Whirlpool tumble dryers that have been fixed by the company following a safety notice in 2015. The consumers reported machines catching fire or producing smoke or a burning smell.
A safety warning was issued by Whirlpool in 2015 in relation to its tumble dryers under the brands Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit which had a fault relating to fluff coming in contact with the heating element and causing a fire risk. Following the safety notice Whirpool began a programme of modifying the affected machines.
Whirlpool say there have been no reported incidents where the modification had been proven to be ineffective.
In May 2018 the OPSS was ordered to carry out a review of Whirlpool’s handling of the issue and its efforts to fix the machines.
Which? has now called on the OPSS to publish their findings as a matter of urgency following the reports it has received.
Thomas Jervis, solicitor from law firm Leigh Day represents over 50 people who have been affected by Whirlpool appliance fires, including the families of Douglas McTavish and Bernard Hender who died in a house fire in 2014 which was caused by a Whirlpool Tumble Dryer.
The Coroner at the inquest of Douglas and Bernard found that the fire was caused by a malfunction within the machine’s door switch. Following the inquest, the coroner issued a Prevention of Future Deaths Report where he raised a concern that “The door switch assembly of interest in this case is used in literally hundreds of thousands of appliances manufactured by Whirlpool”.
Thomas Jervis, solicitor from law firm Leigh Day, said:
“We represent over 50 clients who have been affected by fires that are believed to have originated from Whirlpool tumble dryers so we have seen first-hand the devastation they can cause. We question whether Whirlpool have been as proactive as they could have in warning consumers about the potential dangers of some of their products.
“Following the deaths of Douglas McTavish and Bernard Hender who died in a house fire caused by a Whirlpool Tumble Dryer, the Coroner at their inquest found that the fire was caused by a malfunction within the machine’s door switch. This is a separate issue to the fluff coming into contact with the heating element which was raised as a safety concern by Whirlpool in 2015. We feel that this issue also needs to be investigated by the OPSS to give a full picture of the problems with these machines.
“Consumers should have the right to have full information about the products they have in their homes, especially where there may be a safety risk attached. If the OPSS have already completed their report on this subject it should be published urgently. We therefore support calls from Which? for it to be published without further delay.”
Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products, said:
"The regulator's investigation cannot continue to drag on when serious questions remain unanswered about Whirlpool's approach to the tumble dryer scandal.
"It's very concerning that hundreds of thousands of at-risk machines are still in people's homes, and that there is still uncertainty over whether the repair programme actually works.
"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."
A Whirlpool spokesman 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.
"We have been unable to fully investigate the allegations made by Which? as it has failed to provide essential details to support its claims, despite repeated requests for this information. We cannot therefore offer a considered response to Which?'s claims, and we question the reliability of its research methods.
"We are concerned that misinformed and misleading criticism of the modification programme risks discouraging consumers from registering for this important safety upgrade. Anyone who believes they may still own an affected appliance should contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905 and they can receive the modification within one week."