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Consumer association Which? has called for all plastic-backed cooling appliances to be urgently removed from sales, as they “pose a potential fire risk”.
Following investigation of 500 of the most popular refrigeration appliances, it found nearly half (45%) of fridges, freezers and fridge freezers had plastic backing.
Which? has labelled 250 models as ‘don’t buys’ and is recommending consumers don’t purchase plastic-backed refrigeration appliances.
It believes all plastic-backed material could be a fire risk in people’s homes due to the potential to accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire starting.
However, it points out fires due to refrigeration faults are rare, with UK fire statistics showing only 8% of fires caused by faulty appliances attributed to cooling.
It has also called for retailers to immediately stop selling plastic-backed cooling appliances.
All plastic-backed fridges, freezers and fridge freezers pass existing safety standards, but Which? has stated these regulations are inadequate.
It reports the industry has already recognised the need to toughen safety standards but current plans means these won’t be implemented until 2019.
However, appliance manufacturers Gorenje, Electrolux and Whirlpool have already made safety enhancements in cooling appliance design by introducing metal-backed models across all its fridge, freezer and fridge freezer models.
Which? has launched a free tool to help consumers check the backing material of hundreds of the most popular fridges, freezers and fridge freezers on the market which have been reviewed by the watchdog.
Chief executive of Which? Peter Vicary-Smith said: “People will rightly be outraged to learn that manufacturers and retailers are selling potentially unsafe products that could be putting their lives at risk.
“If manufacturers and retailers fail to act and leave plastic-backed fridges, freezers and fridge freezers on sale, the Office for Product Safety and Standards must step in and take action.”