The heat is on!

17 Feb, 16

The industry MUST do better to prevent appliance disasters and improve duty of care

The kitchen and bathroom industry hasn’t been short of stories, this year, from major company acquisitions, through to senior management changes. In fact, it’s hard to believe, we’re still only two months into 2016! However, one story continues to dominate the rest, and that is the devastation created by some faulty Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit tumble dryers. They have been the cause of fires and there are still millions of models in consumers’ homes that pose a fire risk.

The story has been splashed across the Red Tops and national TV, almost on a daily basis, and rightly so. In this day and age, with all the technology we have to hand, should home appliance safety even be a concern? According to the Mirror, there are 5.3million faulty tumble dryers in the UK market, sold since 2001, which could take up to four years to fix. The timescale has been denied by Whirlpool.

The Mirror reported a senior manager of Whirlpool told consumer journalist Alice Beer, the company was dealing with 3,500 machines a day. One distraught consumer even contacted us to say, despite it being February, a service engineer wouldn’t be available to repair their machine until May.

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The Mirror further revealed, based on a freedom of information request, that firefighters have been called to 6,000 blazes caused by tumble dryers, over the past six years, although it didn’t reveal the brands. There have also been three fatalities during this time.

Of course the catastrophe has been laid at the door of owner Whirlpool, despite only buying the brands in 2014. I understand it is difficult to take responsibility for machines manufactured and sold 13 years prior to ownership. But, surely, there should have been a swifter response to its concerned consumers?Taking a look at the Hotpoint Support and Indesit Support Twitter feeds reveals consumers’ anger with lack of communication and support, having tried (and failed) to contact the brands.

It’s not for the first time the appliance industry has come under scrutiny, and for all the wrong reasons! Stories such as these shine an unfavourable light on the appliance industry, if not the entire kitchen industry. How can designers have confidence in their appliance choice, as well as instil confidence in their customer, when such recognisable brands have been brought into question?

How we move on to introduce new technology, such as connectability when we can’t rely on technology which stretches back over 70 years! Moreover, how can we talk about raising the standards of kitchen design or improving education throughout the supply chain, when manufacturers struggle to have effective processes to fix such devastating problems and dispel fear.

I’m not suggesting manufacturers are not concerned about consumer safety. After all, under the umbrella of AMDEA, major appliance brands did try and improve the recall process, with the launch of website. But enough is enough. I’ve said if before, and I’ll say it again, this industry MUST do better, not only in terms of manufacturing to ensure these issues can’t ever raise their head, but in terms of duty of care, supporting their concerned customers. So what are we going to do about it?