Buyers of fire-risk washing machines should be given a refund as well as a repair or replacement, consumer group Which? has said.
As many as 519,000 appliances sold under Whirlpool’s (WHR) Hotpoint and Indesit brands between October 2014 and February 2018 were revealed in December to be a fire risk due to a door locking flaw that could cause overheating.
The fault, which develops over time, is believed to have already caused 79 fires, according to Whirlpool.
Whirlpool is beginning the recall on Thursday and has offered to repair or replace the fire-risk machines.
But Which? said it had “serious concerns” that this could mean many customers would be left with the dangerous appliances in their homes for many months to come.
Which? had found that 26% of customers involved in Whirlpool’s 2015 repair or replacement scheme for fire-risk tumble dryers, were told they would have to wait over six months for repairs.
The recall was announced on 17 December and owners of the unsafe machines were told to stop using and unplug them or, alternatively, only use the cold cycle of 20C or less to reduce the risk of fire.
So far, 60,000 customers have been found they have the faulty machines.
Many of those affected have been struggling without the use of their washing machine, particularly over the festive period. Many have either spent considerable amounts at launderettes or have already bought a new machine out of desperation and fear they could be left waiting for months for a repair or replacement.
Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which?, said: “It would clearly be unacceptable if customers were left for many months without adequate washing facilities in their homes, particularly when there is also no offer to cover consequential costs such as trips to the launderette.
“The company should do the right thing and offer customers a refund, so people can get fire-risk machines out of their homes and quickly find a suitable replacement.”
Whirlpool vice-president Jeffrey Noel said: “In line with the commitment we made to our customers in December, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that we can now formally reach out to all affected customers who have registered with us to arrange to replace and repair their washing machines.”
Whirlpool has directed concerned consumers to its online model checker and there is also a free helpline available on 0800 316 1442.