Whirlpool defends its tumble-dryer fire risk strategy

US appliance giant Whirlpool has hit back at criticism over its handling of the Indesit Company tumble-dryer fire risk issue.

Speaking exclusively to ERT’s sister magazine kbbreview at the Eurocucina show in Milan, Esther Berrozpe (pictured), president of Whirlpool Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said that the cost of corrective action would be around €245 million (£195m) and insisted the company was doing “all it could” to reach owners of the models identified as having a fault that could pose a fire risk and resolve the issue.

She said: “Following the acquisition of the Indesit Company, we analysed products within each brand, against Whirlpool standards, to ensure there were no quality or safety issues. As soon as a potential product safety issue was identified, we reported it to the relevant authorities and took immediate action.

“This is a massive issue, because we are talking about UK sales between 2004 and 2015 which equates to around 5.3 million units in the market that we need to modify or replace.

“Whirlpool takes safety very seriously and that is why we launched this global campaign. I want to assure everyone that we are doing everything we can to solve the issue in the fastest way possible and to make sure that those consumers affected don’t have to wait too long for a resolution.”

Ms Berrozpe said that the company had increased capacity in its tumble-dryer factories and recruited hundreds of additional engineers as part of its global strategy to “modify and replace” affected dryers.

“The reality is that even though we are sending out hundreds of engineers to modify thousands of machines daily, that’s not enough,” she added. “That is why we have been monitoring the situation closely and fine-tuning our programme to ensure we manage the problem even faster and reduce consumer waiting times.

“Free-of-charge modifications are available to all customers with an affected tumble-dryer. For customers with a dryer out of the manufacturer’s warranty period, who do not want to wait for a free-of-charge modification, the company is offering them the additional opportunity to purchase a replacement machine at a reduced price. This represents not only a resolution to the safety issue, but potentially a low-cost opportunity to upgrade their dryer to a new, highly efficient model.”

Ms Berrozpe confirmed that tumble-dryers produced after October 1, 2015 do not have the fault.

Malcolm Scott, kbbreview columnist and commercial director of Swift Electrical, also defended Whirlpool’s handling of the situation and praised the brand for the “quick action” it had taken.

“Whirlpool have done the right thing for their consumers without regard to cost and should as such be applauded for their quick action,” Mr Scott said. “Given that there are millions of dryers out there, it is only natural that even with a huge increase in staff in there call centres and lots more engineers there are delays in getting appointments for those consumers who were last to ask for a free modification.”