Whirlpool gets proactive about recalls – At last!

 

Whirlpool recalls faulty tumble dryers

Whirlpool status 3 months on from being forced to undertake full recall

Today, 13/09/19 Whirlpool announced that it had successfully identified 65,000 tumble dryers and recalled them. Offers for a resolution have been made on 63,000 of them, with 42,000 of them having been repaired, replaced or refunded so far.

Dangerous dryers under the Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands were sold in the UK for 11 years. They were blamed for 750 fires in the UK and yet it has taken 4 years to finally get Whirlpool to do a full recall rather than continue with its modification programme.

Up to 800,000 were estimated to still be in use when the full recall began.

According to Whirlpool, the number of owners with affected machines who had contacted the company since July had risen sharply from fewer than 10,000 throughout the first half of the year.

It said it had resolved the issue for more than 1.7 million people, making it up to five times more successful than a typical product recall. However, consumer champions, including me (!) have been highly critical of the company and its attitude towards safety.

Background to the faulty tumble dryers 

750 fires have been reported involving Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers during the period 2004 and 2018, including three injuries.

On 23 November 2015 Whirlpool issued a warning regarding 113 different models of their tumble dryers due to the risk of fire. This risk was caused by fluff coming into contact with a heating element. All machines affected were manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015.

Models from Hotpoint, Indesit or Creda were recalled by the firm Whirlpool, which now owns all these companies. However, it was not a full recall which would have caused all machines to be replaced. Instead, the recall, such as it was, involved an engineer visit to each affected appliance.

Whirlpool bows down to pressure

On 12 June 2019 I wrote a blog post The end of the spin cycle? The Consumer Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, had announced that the Government intended to serve Whirlpool with a full recall notice for all tumble dryers that are at risk of fire. She told the House of Commons at the time that “consumer safety is a priority for the Government”. I said that history would say otherwise, given how long we have taken to get here.

On 4 June the government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS)  informed Whirlpool of its intention to serve a Recall Notice. On 10 July 2019 it was Whirlpool UK Appliances Ltd announced that it was to issue a full product recall of tumble dryers not yet modified from consumers’ homes.

What the full recall means for consumers

If you think you have bought a potentially dangerous dryer, ring 0800 151 0905 or visit the Whirlpool recall page to check if your dryer is affected. If it is on the recall list, stop using it and unplug it immediately. You can then choose from:

  • A free replacement dryer with no extra charges for collection or disposal of the old machine
  • A free, one-hour modification of the old machine
  • A discounted upgrade to a higher specification model than the free replacement
  • A partial refund of up to £150, with owners of older machines getting less than those with newer ones

Which? response

Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy said:

“The progress now being made with getting Whirlpool’s fire-risk dryers out of people’s homes shows why the government should have ordered a full recall when this fault was first discovered – as strong action then could have prevented dozens of potentially lethal fires.

“The government must continue to closely monitor the progress of Whirlpool’s recall as thousands of people remain at risk while these faulty machines are in their homes.

“The government’s product safety regulator must urgently investigate whether Whirlpool’s modification for these fire-risk dryers is safe. If there is any doubt, the business secretary must step in and ensure that all potentially dangerous machines are removed from people’s homes.”

 The Complaining Cow’s opinion!

Whirlpool’s reaction to the whole matter has been appalling. Putting profits before lives it seems. It took Government a ridiculous length of time to finally force Whirlpool to recall the machines and Whirlpool shouldn’t have been forced into it in the first place.

It amazes me that a company so large could have taken such a shoddy approach to consumer safety and cared little for its reputation. It has taken many years of campaigning to ensure that the government takes action and forces this company to recall these dangerously defective products.

Will Whirlpool survive this debacle? People often have short memories but I think in this case where a company has shown such disregard for consumer safety and its own reputation that it will struggle to rebuild its badly tarnished reputation.

Fire Whirlpool The tumble dryer story without the spin

 

My report Whirlpool – the tumble dryer story without the spin outlines what happened up until April 2018. It includes details of apparent contradictions in advice provided by Whirlpool, results of Freedom of Information Requests to Government departments and Peterborough Trading Standards, London Fire Brigade statistics and recommendations, research and investigations. All in one place.

 

 

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo

 

If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Which? survey reveals the highs and lows of airport performance

Worst UK airport named and shamedUK airport people walking past a shopAirport lows

Which? has revealed the best and worst rated airports in the UK for 2019. The annual survey of more than 6,000 passenger experiences details this year’s top and bottom ranking airports countrywide.

Long queues, crowded terminals and pricey parking charges contributed to Belfast International Airport taking the bottom spot. It scored 42% overall. Passengers described the airport as “tired and shabby” with a “poor layout”, claiming that there are long security queues and that the airport is “understaffed”.

In the BBC News report The UK’s ‘worst’ airport revealed, Graham Keddie, the airport’s Managing Director, told BBC Radio Ulster “We have now got a tracking system in place and we’re seeing more than 90% of our passengers going through in less than 15 minutes.”

“It’s perhaps legacy from the past, but again we’ve got to take it on board and continue to improve.”

Time will tell whether the promised changes bring the much-needed improvements.

Airports doing not much better

For the fourth year running, Luton was close to the bottom of the table, this year second-to-last. Again, passengers complained of long security queues and limited seating. This is despite more than £1m spent on terminal improvement works in December 2018.

Of those surveyed, when asked if there was an airport they would never fly from 25% picked Luton. Aberdeen International Airport scored the lowest rating for Scotland, achieving poor results for both staffing levels and the availibility of seating.

Steve Szalay, Managing Director at Aberdeen, told BBC News that the Which? research was “months out of date and in no way tallies with the hugely positive feedback we’re receiving from the tens of thousands of passengers who are travelling through our doors on a weekly basis”.
However, a quick flick through the hundreds of comments on the BBC News article shows that many Aberdeen passengers do not agree. They talk of poor building design, in putting baggage reclaim so far away from the arrivals area, dirty toilets and long queues at security.

Aberdeen may well be able to add staff to improve some areas of performance but rebuilding, so as to improve the passenger flow on incoming flights, may prove more difficult!

Airports flying high

Doncaster Sheffield was the highest scoring airport for the third year running, achieving 86% passenger satisfaction. In contrast with airports at the other end of the table, passengers described it as “cosy”, with no queues, and said that it is “easy to navigate”.

97% of those who have used the airport within the last year said that they would recommend the airport, giving particular attention to its “personable and helpful” staff.

But passengers did have one criticism, which was that they wanted more flight destinations than the current 55.

Best of the biggies

Among the airports with more than ten million passengers a year, Heathrow Terminal Five has the highest customer score (66%) among airports with more than ten million passengers a year. Toilets are clearly important, as it was the only area that scored five out of five stars! Ample seating and helpful staff both received four out of five stars. “Too many half-empty luxury shops” made the terminal feel like “a shopping mall”, and what passengers saw as expensive car parks were described as “daylight robbery”.

Close behind was “hassle-free” Birmingham Airport, which scored 65% with three stars across all categories. However, some passengers used words such as “unremarkable” and “functional” to describe it.
What do passengers expect?

The findings show quite simply that passengers expect staff to be helpful and courteous. But just as important are the surroundings. Queues, as you would expect, are never acceptable to passengers unless in exceptional circumstances and even then they expect more staff to be on hand. Passengers also expect good facilities whilst they wait for their departure.

Public vs Private airports

How does the ownership of an airport affect the customer service performance? In 2016 the Airports Council International Europe analysed the ownership of UK airports and found that almost 53% are fully private and more than 25% are in mixed ownership. 21% are still entirely publicly owned. Nearly all of the airports with private shareholders are owned by a variety of foreign private equity funds and pension groups. Since then, Prestwick Airport was put up for sale in June 2019.

Perhaps there is little incentive for airports to adequately staff their airports or keep their buildings up to scratch and fit for purpose, when there’s money to be made? Profit margins are where it is at and of course there isn’t much in the way of competition if you just want to fly from the nearest airport.

Airlines are responsible for most services at airports, so complaints usually go there. People tend to forget their experiences once they’ve flown out and by the time they come back usually can’t be bothered to do anything. Poor service is difficult for people to complain about when they don’t know to whom they should complain or if they will get redress because they haven’t paid the airport any money.

This is probably a big part of why airports say they don’t receive many complaints! There’s a feeling of “well they won’t clean the toilets anyway!” and “I’m back after a lovely holiday I can’t be bothered” and “they won’t take any notice anyway”.

The future of airport satisfaction

The true “customers” of airports are not the passengers but the airlines, who pay to use them for the departures and arrivals of their flights. If problems occur then passengers need to make more effort to complain about service, both to the airports themselves and to their airlines.
In doing this, passengers can guide the way in helping airports to improve the service that they provide. We can live in hope.

Terminal decline – Belfast International rated worst UK airport the Which? press release.