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Dryer Fires Probed

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If you’ve been following this story you will know that the other day it was reported on this site that Andy Slaughter the MP for Hammersmith was looking to ask questions of Whirlpool over the whole tumble dryer fire debacle.

Well, he did.

And interestingly the latest data available suggests that there are around five tumble dryers a day, of all brands and manufacturers, are involved in fire incidents.

Now, as we’ve said repeatedly on here, it isn’t specifically the dryers that are the problem, it’s the build up of fluff or lint as, that’s what goes on fire that’s the problem. Quite probably 99.99% of the time, this is down to poor maintenance by users, i.e. not cleaning the filters etc. The other 0.01% is usually as there’s been something in it that shouldn’t have been that’s caught alight.

Hence we stress, again, follow the tumble dryer safety tips and you’ll be fine.

It does not matter a jot what dryer you have, this is essential!

Mr Slaughter said; “There is little sign so far of the government being prepared to stand up to the powerful industry lobby. This must change.

“Most urgent is an instruction to Whirlpool and other manufacturers to change their approach to customers: faulty appliances that may cause fires must be taken out of use and recalled and replaced immediately.”

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Margot James, diagreed with that assesment and has backed the advice given by Whirpool.

She said in Parliament: “I am not yet persuaded that the product is necessarily unsafe, because the very few fires overall in terms of the five million machines that have been sold have mostly been contained within the machine.

"On being present, bearing in mind what trading standards believes to be a very low risk, I think that the advice is reasonable given that a total product recall is unlikely to get back more than one in four machines.”

Meanwhile the London Fire Brigade’s comment was; “Whirlpool have put out advice which we don't agree with. Our recommendation is that if your white good is subject to recall then you should unplug it and you should not use it again until its been seen by a qualified engineer or the manufacturer themselves.”

But surely, if it’s all dryers then the sensible thing to do is just ban them all isn’t it? After all, if it isn’t just Whirlpool then why not just outright ban them?

We know it’s ridiculous but you get the point. If people don’t use any dryer correctly then, it has the possibility of presenting a fire risk therefore, logically, the only way to completely negate that risk as, manufacturers cannot control how they are used or maintained, is to ban the lot. And, the evidence would suggest that they are all unsafe so, it’s the logical conclusion to come to.

It will not happen and we know that but this is starting to descend into a bit of a farce in some ways.

That said, Whirlpool’s cause hasn’t been helped by Whirlpool or Hotpoint/Indesit/Creda telling owners in Australia with what is essentially the same dryers needing the same modification to unplug them and not to use them or, so we’re told.

In this day and age what with the internet, that wasn’t a good idea.

Now a select committee is asking questions of Whirlpool and, we’d wager they’re not going to like it.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee chairman Iain Wright has written to ask Whirlpool UK managing director Maurizio Pettorino if the company intended to change its advice in light of the London Fire Brigade warning, and "if not, please explain why not".

Mr Wright wrote: "Further to our exchange of letters in February and our subsequent meeting, I am writing to request a further update on the recall of Hotpoint, lndesit and Credo brand tumble dryers initiated by Whirlpool last November."

"Given that a number of months have passed, I would welcome an update on: a. What progress has been made in reducing waiting times for customers to get replacements. b. Whether it still takes 10 weeks to schedule a repair date and, if so, why this delay. c. How many customers are still awaiting repairs, and what is the time frame for completing these."

Mr Wright stated that it was "concerning that customers are having to wait so long for repairs", and said his own constituents had written to him about problems with arranging replacement tumble dryers and dealing with the customer service department.

He added: "More importantly, the risk posed by faulty dryers is also clearly apparent, as demonstrated by a potentially fatal tower block blaze in London in August 2016, which London Fire Brigade attributed to a faulty Indesit tumble dryer.

“In light of this, I would like to understand whether you intend to change your customer advice, given London Fire Brigade has urged that customers should not use their appliance until it has been checked and repaired. if not, please explain why not."

Which? director Alex Neill said: "It is shocking that almost a year has passed since this problem was identified and there are still millions of people who have tumble dryers in their homes that could catch fire.

"The committee is right to highlight the failings with the product safety system and the Government must now review the Whirlpool case and set out how it is going to improve safety for consumers."

A spokesman for Whirlpool said: "We can confirm that we have received a letter from Iain Wright MP, in his capacity as Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. We will be responding in due course and are pleased to be able to update Mr Wright on the significant progress we have made in the modification campaign since our last correspondence with him.

"The scale of this modification programme is considerable and we're continually looking into alternative options which will allow us to progress the programme at a faster pace and are working hard to improve our response times. To this end, we continue to recruit extra engineers. Since the beginning of the modification programme we have increased our team of engineers by over 45% to more than 1,500 engineers. This unprecedented recruitment and training programme means we have the largest domestic service organisation in the country and we continue to grow our engineer team. To improve response times, we have also more than doubled the number of call centre employees to nearly 1,000.

"The safety of consumers is our number one priority and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the tumble dryer modification programme is carried out in a safe and timely manner.

"We urge everyone who owns an Indesit, Hotpoint or Creda dryer manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 to check if their dryer is affected and then register for a free modification if it is. They can do this using the model checker on two bespoke websites we have created, https://safety.hotpoint.eu/ and https://safety.indesit.eu/, or our dedicated freephone helpline on 0800 151 0905 for the UK or 1800 804320 for Ireland."

Basically the usual PR friendly company party line we’d expect.

There’s no way that Whirlpool will offer any comment on any one single incident until it is fully investigated and the true cause ascertained, they’d be nuts to do anything else. All the more so with the legal vultures swirling just waiting to pounce.

And with the media seemingly looking for it’s pound of flesh as well.

We’re not exactly on the best of terms with Whirlpool, apparently they don’t like us as we’ve said bad things about them but, they do have some sympathy on this one as they’re in an impossible position that Whirlpool didn’t make, the previous owners of the company did.

What we’d like to see is if the previous owners knew about this, when and if they did and didn’t do something about it then that’s something worth looking into.

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