The appliance manufacturer Whirlpool will on Monday announce a recall of an estimated 500,000 tumble dryers at risk of bursting into flames – four years after safety concerns in the UK first emerged.
The move, which the government ordered in June, marks a dramatic escalation in a long-running controversy over the dryers and the company’s handling of an issue that has left hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous machines in consumers’ homes.
The US-owned company issued a safety warning in 2015 after it found its Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit dryers had a fault that could make them catch fire, and launched a programme to modify faulty machines. The company has faced criticism over its decision not to recall items that are at risk of fire.
This week it will launch a fresh appeal and recall of the unmodified machines – backed by a £1m advertising campaign – as part of a drive to raise consumer awareness.
Jeff Noel, the vice-president of Whirlpool, said: “People’s safety is our top priority, which is why we are expanding this important campaign. We are committed to doing the right thing for our consumers and will continue to take every action possible to resolve this issue. The crucial message is to contact us immediately if you still own one of these tumble dryers and haven’t already had it modified or replaced by us.”
The figure of 500,000 machines is estimated by the government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards, although earlier this month Noel admitted to MPs that the total number of faulty dryers in UK homes ranged from 250,000 to 800,000.
Caroline Normand, the director of advocacy at Which?, said: “Whirlpool has failed to trace hundreds of thousands of fire-risk tumble dryers that could still be in people’s homes almost four years after this fault was first discovered, so we have serious doubts about the company’s ability to get these machines out of circulation.
“Given it has taken the threat of government action for Whirlpool to act on this vital matter of public safety, ministers must closely monitor this recall and definitively establish the safety of modified machines, which have also caught fire, if they are to be offered as replacements.”
Martyn Allen, the technical director of Electrical Safety First, added: “The official recall of these machines is welcome but we believe should have been implemented years ago. Now the problem is tracking these machines down, highlighting the importance of registering any electrical product when you buy it.” Earlier this month, the charity said it had found unmodifed machines for sale by third-party vendors on online marketplaces.
Consumers can check if their dryer is one of those affected by calling 0800 151 0905 or visiting Whirlpool’s website. The company said consumers whose dryers have already been replaced or modified need take no further action.