Brands slam Which? safety report as ‘misleading’

Manufacturers have hit out at a recent Which? report on product safety, accusing it of being based on “inaccurate” data.

Hotpoint, Indesit, Beko, Hoover and Haier were all named and shamed, with Which? claiming their appliances “cause concern” over safety after a number of high-profile fires.

Which? claimed its investigation showed that more than 60 house fires a week are caused by faulty white goods, such as washing machines, tumble-dryers and fridge-freezers.

The report claimed that the Hotpoint brand was linked with a third (34 per cent) of dishwasher fires where a brand was identifiable, nearly one-in-five (17 per cent) refrigeration fires and almost a third (31 per cent) of dryer fires.

Which? also alleged that Beko was linked to a quarter of refrigerator fires, while it linked Hoover with 12 per cent of tumble-dryer fires and Haier with six per cent of washing machine fires. Haier is reported by Which? as saying that the affected models are no longer being made.

However, Hoover, Beko and Hotpoint and Indesit owner Whirlpool questioned the validity of the report, which was based on the Fire and Rescue Service’s initial statistics, claiming that it was misleading and could not be relied on for judgement calls on the safety of the brand’s products.

“These claims are based on unreliable and inaccurate data,” said a spokesman from Whirlpool. “The Government has advised that the accuracy of Fire and Rescue Service incident data cannot be guaranteed and should not be relied upon to make judgements about particular appliance makes or models.”

A spokesman for Hoover added: “The Which? analysis does not reflect our own data or findings. It is based on data that we have not seen and presents a simplistic overview that omits a range of important factors that are central to understanding the cause of any incident.”

Beko also said it “strongly disputes” the claims made by Which? and didn’t recognise much of the data used in the report, claiming that its own data showed a “significantly reduced incident rate” than presented by Which?.

A spokesman for Beko said: “Since 2007, our entire refrigeration range has been fitted with flame-retardant backs. We have not seen a single fire in a Beko cooling product manufactured following this, where the refrigerator has been proved to be the cause.

“We believe we are the only manufacturer to take these steps across our entire range and this move has been endorsed by Which? We have sold over six million refrigerators in the UK since these changes have been made.”

However, Which? defended its report, saying it believed that “the fire officer’s initial assessment on the likely cause is the best available indicator”.

Appliance trade association Amdea agreed that the data published in the Which? report was not sufficiently reliable to substantiate the claims made against appliance manufacturers.

“As far as we know Which? is relying on a data set published by the Home Office that contains a rarely completed field where attending fire officers can log an appliance brand if they think they have identified one as the possible source of a domestic fire,” a spokesman for Amdea said. “This field is too sparsely populated to provide statistically reliable data. Amdea cannot comment on the source of the market share data used by Which? other than to say that several of our members did not recognise the percentages quoted, but they were advised that the Which? research team would not answer questions relating to their methodology.”

Whirlpool also pointed out that a note from the Home Office also advised that the data compiled shouldn’t be used to make judgements on a particular brand or model with regards to the cause of a fire.

It quoted the note as saying: “The quality and extent of the make/model information provided by Fire and Rescue Services is variable and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Recorded incidents do not include judgments on whether the cause of the incident related to the make/model (either its manufacture or maintenance), other circumstances or a combination of those factors. This information should not, therefore, be used in isolation to make judgments about the safety of particular makes/models.”

All brands did reiterate that product safety was of paramount importance to them and that they ensure their appliances comply with all quality and safety legislation.

Hoover also advised that there are no current product recalls or safety notices involving any of its laundry appliances.