The chief executive of electrical retailers association Retra has hit out at how appliance manufacturer Whirlpool has handled the ‘media frenzy’ that has surrounded the Indesit Company tumble-dryer fire risk.
A potential five million Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda dryers in the UK between 2004 and 2015 are subject to a product safety alert after being identified as having a fault that could pose a fire risk.
The warning followed an investigation by Whirlpool’s global safety experts after the US appliance giant acquired the Italian firm in 2014.
Speaking exclusively to ERT, Howard Saycell (pictured) said: “Retra members have been greatly affected by the product safety issues centred around the Whirlpool brands.
“The safety of consumers is paramount and our members have done everything they can to help Whirlpool. Could it have been managed better? Without doubt. The whole matter has become something of a media frenzy, with advice being given both on television and in the press.
“Stories are circulating that some of the appliances are still not safe after a visit from an engineer and also that there are design issues with replacement models. Only time will tell whether this is true or not. Some ‘experts’ are advising consumers that the goods are not fit for purpose and that they should demand a refund from their retailer. Some Retra members have had customers come into their stores demanding exactly that.”
Added Mr Saycell: “The sheer scale of the problem means there is no quick fix, which is very unsettling for both consumers and retailers. The reputational damage for Whirlpool and indeed the wider industry is almost incalculable.
“While safety is at the heart of the matter, there are also commercial considerations. Many members want to look after their customers and feel left out of the loop. To be fair to Whirlpool, they are throwing massive resources and money at this issue – and rightly so. I just wish they had involved the retailers earlier and maybe some of the confusion and media frenzy could have been averted.
“I fear we are only at the beginning of what will be a long and rocky road.”