Whirlpool criticised for ‘silencing customers’ amid tumble dryer fire risks

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“A damning indictment of Whirlpool’s handling of their recall,” said Electrical Safety First

Domestic appliance manufacturer, Whirlpool, has been heavily criticised by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, which highlighted Whirlpool’s use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to “silence customers”, saying the company “had tried to deflect the concerns of safety organisations and customers”.

The BEIS Committee has condemned the American-headquartered manufacturer for its “slow response” in modifying or replacing faulty tumble dryers during its recall campaign earlier this year.

MPs have now said it is “astonishing” that, four years after Whirlpool admitted their defective tumble dryers pose a fire risk, as many as 800,000 could still remain in people’s homes.

Back in the summer, Whirlpool launched a full recall of tumble dryers following a lengthy safety campaign that began in 2015 that had already resolved the issue for 1.7 million people.

Despite this, the manufacturer said there were still people who had not yet engaged with the recall campaign, and that it was “vital” they came forward.

The BEIS Committee report welcomed this recall, but said it took “far too long” for the Government to force the move.

It also expressed concerns, shared by safety organisations, about the safety of Whirlpool’s modification.

“Whirlpool’s response to fixing safety flaws in its tumble dryers has too often owed more to PR management than to taking the practical steps to make its machines safe for customers,” said BEIS Committee Chairwoman, Rachel Reeves.

“The saga has dragged on for far too long, leaving customers, now four years on, still fearing they may have potentially unsafe tumble dryers in their homes. Whirlpool has failed to live up to the duties it owes to its customers.

“Whirlpool’s prime obligation was to fix the safety issues with its tumble dryers rather than in engage in disgraceful tactics such as using NDAs to silence customers who have been the victim of fires involving its products.”

Jeff Noel, Vice-President of Whirlpool, said: “People’s safety is our top priority, which is why Whirlpool welcomes the report by the BEIS Select Committee to raise awareness of ongoing safety improvements in the UK.

“We pledge to continue to work with the OPSS (Office of Product Safety and Standards) and members of the BEIS Select Committee and Government to help advance product safety in the UK.”

Technical Director of Electrical Safety First, Martyn Allen, commented: “Today’s report from the Select Committee is a damning indictment of Whirlpool’s handling of their recall, and echoes many of our own concerns.

“A recall should have been implemented when the faults were first discovered with the machines back in 2015 and had Whirlpool done this, we may have seen fewer fires attributed to affected tumble dryers. Furthermore, NDAs should not be used for a safety issue such as this and the Select Committee is right to criticise Whirlpool’s use of them.

“Moving forward, it is essential for the Government to now take note of the recommendations included in the report related to bettering access to information around recalls. A centralised recall database would form part of the solution in ensuring people are not left in the dark as to whether a dangerous product is in their home.

“Our own research has found that consumers believe registering appliances is a timely and inconvenient process, and the recommendation of registering at the point of purchase could help tackle the relatively low number of registered electrical items in the UK.”