UK government orders recall of over 500,000 Whirlpool products

Appliance manufacturer Whirlpool is facing an "unprecedented" order from the UK government to recall over 500,000 tumble dryers that could pose a fire safety risk.

The recall notice was announced by business minister Kelly Tolhurst after former Conservative minister Andrew Griffiths raised "great concern" over Whirlpool's "straightness" over the issue. Speaking in the Commons, Griffiths said he was concerned about whether people still had unsafe products in their homes.

Business minister Kelly Tolhurst replied, saying: "I can tell the House we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as a next step of the regulatory process. This is unprecedented action."

In 2015, Whirlpool issued a safety warning after it found that several of its dryers had a fault that could cause them to catch fire.The risk was that lint could build up inside the dryer, fall onto the main heating element and ignite. The government estimated at the time that this safety issues affected more then five million Whirlpool tumble dryers. An investigation by the watchdog Which? found this fault could be blamed for at least 750 fires over an 11-year period.

Whirlpool then launched a programme to modify the faulty machines under its Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands, but did not recall the affected dryers. The company estimates that between 300,000 and 500,000 faulty products could still be in use within the UK, three years after the first safety notice was issued.

Last month, the government said there were still at least 500,000 tumble dryers with this fault still in UK homes, and this week it has gone further to enforce a product recall on affected Whirlpool products. In April, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) published a report, urging Whirlpool to improve its risk management, and do more to reach affected consumers to minimise the risk of faulty machines still being in people's homes.

A spokeswoman for Whirlpool said: "Safety is our number one priority." She added that anyone with an affected dryer should unplug the appliance and refrain from using it.

David Chaplin, Which? Head of Campaigns, said: “For years we’ve been raising serious concerns about Whirlpool’s fire-risk tumble dryers as well as the cynical tactics - such as the reported use of non-disclosure agreements - that the company has used to put its corporate reputation ahead of public safety.

“People’s lives have been put at risk for far too long, so it’s a hugely significant step that these machines are set to be recalled. But there will be serious questions if this recall only addresses the 500,000 unmodified machines that Whirlpool has already struggled to locate. The Government must urgently explain what it is going to do about the millions of modified machines still in people’s homes, following serious concerns that have been raised by people who have experienced fires, smoke and burning despite the so-called fix."

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