Whirlpool extends fire fault checks to 55,000 UK washing machines

The white goods giant Whirlpool is to recall an extra 55,000 washing machines after identifying possible faults in a further 21 models, nearly five months after announcing its original recall of more than half a million units in UK homes which were at risk of catching fire.

Up to 519,000 appliances sold under its Hotpoint and Indesit brands between October 2014 and February 2018 were a fire risk because they could be affected by a door lock flaw that could lead to overheating, the US company admitted in December last year.

The company revealed today it has now located 210,000 affected machines on its original recall list – equivalent to 40% – since launching a national campaign to track them down in January. That month it added another 5,000 to the list.

But today it further expanded the recall, saying the integration of Indesit’s computer system with Whirlpool had recently revealed the additional “at risk” machines.

More than 3.1 million people have now contacted the company to check if their washing machines are part of the recall, it added, while over 95% of these people have been given peace of mind that their appliances are not affected.

The announcement, made in agreement with the government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) which is monitoring the situation, sought to reassure owners of the machines that might be faulty that they can still have them repaired by engineers or replaced – for free – during the lockdown. Engineers entering peoples’ homes will be required to adhere to social distancing and will wear full personal protective equipment, it said.

The company is continuing to advise consumers with affected models to unplug their machine until it can be repaired or replaced, or to wash at only 20C or colder if they have to use it. The alternative is washing by hand as public launderettes are now closed.

Jeff Noel, a vice president of Whirlpool, said: “We remain committed to this recall in spite of the global coronavirus pandemic. With people spending more time at home under the current social distancing measures, it’s more important than ever that this safety issue is tackled swiftly.”

Electrical safety and consumer groups expressed their concern that potentially dangerous machines were still in UK homes. Lesley Rudd, chief executive of the charity Electrical Safety First said: “It is alarming that five months into this recall we are only now hearing of these extra models which pose a risk to owners. This new discovery throws into question the robustness of the original investigation. It’s vital that these machines are removed from people’s homes as soon as possible.”

The washing machine recall comes in the wake of criticism of Whirlpool for selling more than 5m fire-prone tumble dryers that the company failed to recall for four years until forced to do so by the government’s regulator.

Unlike the issues relating to the washing machine recall there were a number of high-profile fires linked to the recalled tumble dryers which were reported to have caused devastating damage.

At the end of last year, Whirlpool agreed to pay an undisclosed amount in compensation to victims of the Shepherds Court fire which broke out in 2016, leaving many residents in the west London tower block needing alternative accommodation.

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