Peterborough Trading Standards Whirlpool fire safety alert should be “watershed” for product recalls, MPs told

One of the burnt out Whirlpool machines
One of the burnt out Whirlpool machines
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The Whirlpool safety alert prompted by Peterborough Trading Standards should be a watershed that acts as a catalyst for a “proper” recall system in the UK, MPs have heard.

Labour MP Andy Slaughter said there were potentially up to three million dryers “still out there” that were subject to a safety notice about a fire risk, which is caused by excess fluff coming into contact with the heating element.

Mr Slaughter, who led the Westminster Hall debate, said: “One of the most shocking aspects for me, other Members and constituents, is that we believed that there was an effective system of product safety in this country.

“The Whirlpool tragedy has exposed that there simply is not, but it is possible, because it happens in the US and in other countries.

“If the minister is to have a legacy in this job, it could be to commit this or a future government to saying they will go forward with a proper system of registration and recall, as well as ensuring that the disaster that is the Whirlpool scheme is finally put to rest.”

In February, Whirlpool upgraded its warning to consumers with faulty Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda dryers to unplug the potentially dangerous machines until they have been repaired.

Whirlpool updated the advice after receiving enforcement notices from Peterborough Trading Standards (PTS), which has been dealing with the alert involving a reported 5.3 million dryers as Whirlpool’s UK head office is in Peterborough.

The move follows consumer group Which? formally requesting a judicial review of PTS in December over its handling of the alert.

Fire chiefs warned in October that owners of the faulty dryers must stop using them immediately, after one of the machines was found to be the cause of a huge blaze in an 18-storey tower block in Shepherd’s Bush in London.

London Fire Brigade said they believed a faulty Indesit dryer was the cause of the August 19 blaze, following a “painstaking” investigation.

But Whirlpool did not issue a product recall and stuck to urging those who owned an affected dryer to register for a free modification, advising that the machines were safe to use providing they were not left unattended.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “Today’s debate is a damning reflection of Whirlpool’s failures and its completely inadequate handling of the tumble dryer safety issue.

“There could still be millions of potentially life-threatening machines in people’s homes.

“The next government must act swiftly to force a full product recall of all affected machines to prevent further risk to people’s safety.

“All political parties must commit to urgently address issues with the product safety system.

“It should not require the threat of legal action to ensure that consumers are protected from dangerous products.”

Phil Buckle, chief executive of the charity Electrical Safety First, said: “Electrical Safety First has lobbied hard for improvements to the product recall system, including via membership of the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety, which is soon to release its final report and recommendations.

“However, as this debate illustrates, there are ongoing problems with the recall process.

“For example, the length of time it took Whirlpool to advise consumers not to use its affected tumble dryers.

“Consumer safety should always be put first.

“Since their product safety notice was issued in November 2015, we have consistently advised people not to use an affected machine.

“It’s a shame it took Whirlpool so long to issue the same advice.”