Whirlpool customers 'still facing tumble dryer repair delays' after safety alert

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Whirlpool is still forcing delays on customers with potentially dangerous tumble dryers, a year after it announced a safety alert, a consumer group has found.

In a survey last month Which? found that 22% of affected customers first polled in April were still waiting for their machine to be repaired or replaced.

A quarter of affected customers (26%) had been told by Whirlpool they would have to wait longer than six months for their tumble dryer to be repaired, and one in five (22%) were told that the wait would be between three and six months.

Fire chiefs warned in October that owners of faulty Whirlpool dryers must stop using them immediately, after one of the machines was found to be the cause of a huge blaze in an 18-storey tower block in Shepherd's Bush in London.

London Fire Brigade said they believed a faulty Indesit dryer was the cause of the August 19 blaze, following a "painstaking" investigation.

It urged parent company Whirlpool to change its advice to customers so that any dryers waiting to be modified are not used.

A reported 5.3 million dryers made by Whirlpool brands Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda between April 2004 and September 2015 are subject to a safety notice about the fire risk, which is caused by excess fluff coming into contact with the heating element.

Which? also found Whirlpool to be giving potentially dangerous advice to mystery shoppers last month, telling one that their machine was not affected despite the model number being listed in the safety notice, and incorrectly advising three others to contact the shop they bought the machine from for a replacement.

And despite Whirlpool committing to reduce the waiting time for a customer ID number, required to progress the repair or replacement process, to 10 days, Which? found some call handlers quoting six to 12 weeks to mystery shoppers.

Which? managing director of home and legal services, Alex Neill, said: "It is absolutely unacceptable that one year on, Whirlpool customers are still seeing slow, poor service and potentially receiving incorrect and dangerous advice. Its modification programme is clearly not progressing as fast as it should.

"Following the devastating fire caused by a tumble dryer in Shepherd's Bush earlier this year, Whirlpool cannot be allowed to continue letting consumers down. It must clean up its act and sort out this mess urgently."

Shadow minister for housing and London, Andy Slaughter, said: "The new research produced by Which? provides further evidence that Whirlpool's response to this issue has been totally inadequate thus far, and makes it clear that they have disregarded the safety and consumer rights of those in possession of these faulty dryers.

"Whirlpool need to rectify this immediately, and should do so by implementing a full product recall and changing their safety advice to consumers, as recommended by the London Fire Brigade.

"It is also essential that they come up with a plan to track down and recall the approximately 2.9 million unregistered faulty dryers that continue to operate in people's homes, and therefore to pose a potential risk to both life and property."

Whirlpool said: "We urge everyone who owns an Indesit, Hotpoint or Creda dryer manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 to check if their dryer is affected and then register for a free modification if it is.

"The safety of consumers is our number one priority and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the tumble dryer modification programme is carried out in a safe and timely manner."