The government is to serve a recall notice on Whirlpool over concerns about the safety of its tumble dryers.
The “unprecedented step” means the company will have to recall hundreds of thousands of appliances over fears they pose a fire safety risk.
It comes after 5.3 million dryers under Whirlpool’s Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit brands required modifying after several fires, including a tower block blaze.
Whirlpool said safety was its “number one priority”.
The company estimates that between 300,000 and 500,000 faulty products could still be in UK homes, three years after the first safety notice was issued – although there is no definitive register to judge the accuracy of the estimate.
Last year, the BBC’s Watchdog Live consumer programme uncovered cases in which machines had caught fire even after being fixed.
And in April, the Office for Product Safety and Standards published a report, urging Whirlpool to improve its risk management, and “reach affected consumers in more creative ways” to minimise the risk of faulty machines still being in people’s homes.
The recall notice was announced in the Commons by business minister Kelly Tolhurst after former Conservative minister Andrew Griffiths raised “great concern” over Whirlpool’s “straightness”.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Griffiths said despite the OPSS’s “thorough review” he was still concerned about whether people still had “unsafe products” in their homes.
Business minister Kelly Tolhurst replied, saying: “I can tell the House we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as a next step of the regulatory process,” adding: “This is unprecedented action.”
Rachel Reeves, Labour chairwoman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said the move was “long overdue”.
“Finally, over a year since we called for a recall of defective machines and 18 months since the Beis Committee reported on Whirlpool’s inadequate response to safety flaws, the government is at last showing some teeth,” she said.
David Chaplin, a spokesman from consumer group Which? said there were still “serious questions” if the recall only addressed the 500,000 unmodified machines that “Whirlpool has already struggled to locate”.
He said: “People’s lives have been put at risk for far too long, so it’s a hugely significant step that these machines are set to be recalled.
“The government must urgently explain what it is going to do about the millions of modified machines still in people’s homes, following serious concerns that have been raised by people who have experienced fires, smoke and burning despite the so-called fix.”
A Whirlpool Corporation spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to resolving any affected tumble dryers that have not yet been modified.
“To this end, we are in ongoing discussions with the Office for Product Safety and Standards to agree additional measures we have proposed to reach consumers who have not yet engaged with this safety programme.
“We have co-operated with OPSS throughout its recent review of the programme and welcome its findings that consumers whose tumble dryers have been modified can continue to use them safely.
“The crucial message to anyone who still owns an affected dryer and has not already had it modified by Whirlpool is to contact us immediately.
“In the meantime, anyone with an affected dryer that has not been modified should unplug it and not use it until the modification has been completed.”
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