'Alarming' number of kitchen appliance fires

Dave Thompson/PA Wire

A Which? investigation has uncovered an 'alarming' number of faulty kitchen appliances, causing thousands of house fires every year.

The investigation by the consumer champion found people suffering serious damage to their homes had been caused by appliances ranging from exploding toasters to smoking kettles.
The survey comes after several recent stories of Beko fridge-freezers causing house fires, and in one case, a death.

According to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, almost 6,000 appliances or their electrical leads caught fire due to faults in 2010/11. But Freedom of Information requests to fire services across the country revealed that it is not necessarily the obvious appliances, like ovens, that consumers should worry about.

Which products pose a risk?

Which? found that tumble dryers and washing machines are more likely to catch fire due to faults, and cited one example where over £86,000 worth of damage was caused by a dishwasher catching on fire.

When asked about it's appliances, Beko told Which? it was aware of 33 incidents caused by its fridge-freezers. But the consumer group says fire brigades have attributed 91 to Beko refrigeration appliances (including fridge-freezers) in the past two years.

The investigation also revealed a "disproportionate number of fires attributed to Hotpoint dishwashers," even taking into account that this is a popular brand with a large share of the market.

Hotpoint told Which? it knows of "only a small number of cases with minor problems" and identified two series of dishwashers that it says have issues. The DWF3 series (produced from 1999-2002) is "very low risk", and the FDW2&6 series (produced from 2006-8) is now under investigation.

Current consumer rights

If you have a product which the company has announced is faulty - as Beko has done with a number of its fridge-freezer models - you should contact the company to find out their procedure.

In the case of Beko you can arrange for a free of charge modification to the fridge freezer model, and the faulty part will be replaced.

What else should be done?

While some fire brigades already collect data on the makes and models of appliances that have caused fires, this is not a statutory requirement and the information was not readily available to the public, Which? said.

The consumer group has called on the government to take steps to ensure better information and protection for consumers. Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Greater transparency would alert manufacturers to products that are continually at fault and give consumers greater protection against faulty appliances so they can prevent damage to their homes."

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