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'Extraordinary' 800,000 Whirlpool tumble driers still in use despite fire risk

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·Finance and policy reporter
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NILES, IL - MAY 12:  A Whirlpool logo is seen on a dryer at a Sears store May 12, 2006 in Niles, Illinois. Whirlpool reportedly may be closing three Maytag manufacturing plants and offices as well as eliminating upwards of 4,500 jobs.  (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
Whirlpool is under fire. Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Whirlpool (WHR) is under pressure over the “extraordinary” fact 800,000 tumble driers could still be in use in Britain four years after it emerged they posed a fire risk, according to a report.

MPs expressed anger so many had not been replaced or repaired, and claimed the company’s handling of flaws “owed more to PR management” than putting safety first.

The company was also accused of trying to “silence customers” by using non-disclosure agreements.

The length of time it took Whirlpool to launch a full recall and admit how many could be affected has sparked particular concern among policymakers.

The company has admitted to problems with certain Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline dryers built over more than a decade between 2004 and 2015.

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A report by MPs on parliament’s business committee says 54 fires had been reported in recent years alone, with three in models that had already updated.

MPs urged the government to review Whirlpool’s efforts to improve safety.

It comes just days after Grenfell Tower inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said he had “no doubt” the tragedy was started by an electrical fault in a Hotpoint fridge-freezer.

Treasury committee chair and Labour MP Rachel Reeves said: “Whirlpool’s response to fixing safety flaws in its tumble dryers has too often owed more to PR management than to taking the practical steps to make its machines safe for customers.

“Whirlpool’s prime obligation was to fix the safety issues with its tumble dryers rather than in engage in disgraceful tactics such as using NDAs to silence customers who have been the victim of fires involving its products.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 25:  Labour MP Rachel Reeves leads a tribute to the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox on the first day of the Labour Party Conference in the Exhibition Centre Liverpool on September 25, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will hope to re-unite the party after being re-elected leader yesterday.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Labour MP Rachel Reeves. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

But Whirlpool vice president Jeff Noel said: “People’s safety is our top priority, which is why Whirlpool welcomes the report by the BEIS select committee to raise awareness of ongoing safety improvements in the UK.

“Through our ongoing campaign we have resolved this potential safety issue – which concerns tumble dryers produced by the previous owner of the company – for more than 1.75 million people. This is up to five times the average success rate for a product recall in the UK.”

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Caroline Normand, director of advocacy for consumer group Which?, said: “Whirlpool’s handling of its fire-risk tumble dryers is a national scandal that has gone on for far too long.

“It is unforgivable that, because of our broken product safety system, it took four years to force Whirlpool into a recall, so we need to see swift changes to stop corporations getting away with putting their reputations ahead of public safety.”

“The UK needs a new independent product safety regulator that is properly equipped to hold companies to account over dangerous products and ensure people’s lives are not put at risk. The next government must act.”

Whirlpool is still urging anyone affected who has not had their drier replaced or modified to get in touch online or on 0800 151 0905.

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