'Action needed' on fire-risk dryers

‘Action needed’ on fire-risk dryers, says Trading Standards chief

  • 18 March 2016
  • From the section Business
The destroyed tumble dryerImage copyright Chelsea Garnham
Image caption A damaged Indesit tumble dryer which investigators believe started a fire in Surrey last month

More action is needed to recall Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers before someone dies, according to a leading Trading Standards officer.

Last November Whirlpool – the owner of the Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda brands – said the dryers could be dangerous as they allow lint to build up against the heating element.

The company has contacted more than three million customers offering repairs or money off a replacement.

But some owners face an 11-month wait.

Leon Livermore, chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, told 5 Live Breakfast: “The fact that Trading Standards sit within local government means they’re often stretched for resources.

“Central government itself does have back up powers to force people into recalls and to take action. So we would call on the government, in particular the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to take action before someone dies.”

He added: “I think it’s indicative of how the UK views consumer issues. Trading standards services have seen cuts of over 50% over the last few years and actually there hasn’t been an outcry from the public because a lot of this stuff goes on in the background.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business said: “People rightly deserve the assurance that if they buy a product that turns out to be unsafe, this can quickly be rectified. The government places a very high value on consumer safety, but industry also has a crucial role to play in protecting consumers.

“Ministers are keen that businesses work together to provide the solutions and improve the systems so we can reduce the number of incidents and keep people safe.”

Media captionAs Simon Gompertz reports, owners are being told they can still use their dryers – but must clean the filter every time and not leave unattended

Repairs

Whirlpool said it was trying to deal with the issue as quickly as possible and has hired an extra 300 engineers, an increase of 30%.

In a statement the company said: “The scale of this modification programme is considerable and we know our customers are experiencing longer wait times than we would like.

“We apologise for this inconvenience and are working hard to improve our response times.”

Customers will wait about 10 weeks to be scheduled for a modification date, which currently could be as far away as January 2017, Whirlpool said.

“However, we are confident that this timeline will be reduced as we continue to recruit more engineers and increase the resourcing of our call centre,” it added.

Trading Standards officers were involved in the decision to conduct a repair programme rather than a full recall.

In a recent statement to a committee of MPs, Trading Standards said: “The company continues to remain in regular dialogue with the authority, during which progress is monitored and reviewed.

“Part of this agreement was to organise an outreaching repair campaign to modify the affected products, rather than a product recall.”


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