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Whirlpool’s advice to customers to not use their washing machines until they are repaired or replaced is “wholly inadequate”, according to an MP who previously chaired a cross-party committee on consumer protection.
Manufacturer Whirlpool (WHR) last week recalled around half a million washing machines in the UK. The machines, branded as Hotpoint or Indesit and sold over the last five years, have a door-locking system that can overheat, creating a fire risk.
The company has said that its priority is to ensure these possibly dangerous machines are removed from people’s homes, even as the majority of people gear up for Christmas.
“Whirlpool's advice to affected customers simply not to use the machines until repaired or replaced is wholly inadequate, particularly in the busy holiday period when families are at home,” said Yvonne Fovargue, an MP who chaired the all-party grouping on consumer protection in the last parliament, told the BBC.
“It appears that once again customer trust is being abused and eroded. Whirlpool should swiftly compensate customers who have been severely let down,” she said.
Around a fifth of Hotpoint and Indesit-branded washing machines sold in the UK since 2014 are thought to be affected by the fault, which has caused 79 fires thus far, Whirlpool has said.
The criticism comes after Whirlpool was already slammed for its response to its handling of fire-prone tumble dryers. More than five million tumble dryers sold over 11 years were thought to have a fire risk, but the company only issued a recall after four years.
Former business committee chair Rachel Reeves told the BBC that those affected by the current washing machine recall should also be offered a refund on top of the repair and replacement.
“I understand Whirlpool is refusing to offer refunds to consumers hit by this latest safety problem in what seems to be a never-ending saga,” she said.
She said the refusal furthered damaged consumer confidence and “shows a lack of respect for the people on whom Whirlpool's profits depend.”
Announcing the recall, Whirlpool vice-president Jeff Noel said: “We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and concern this may cause to our customers, particularly over the Christmas period, but we hope people will understand that we are taking action because people's safety is our top priority.”