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Industry News

Published on July 11th, 2019 | by The GC Team

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Whirlpool tumble dryer recall plan accepted by OPSS

In an exchange of letters between D. Jeffrey Noel, Whirlpool corporate vice president communications & public affairs, and Graham Russell, chief executive of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), the manufacturer has presented, and the OPSS has accepted, proposals to implement a recall plan for all unmodified Hotpoint, Creda, Indesit, Proline and Swan tumble dryers involved in the fire safety warning first issued by Whirlpool some four years ago.

This development follows “unprecedented action” by the Government in June to begin the process of serving a recall notice on the manufacturer.

In a letter to the OPSS dated 8 July 2019 which has been obtained by GC Magazine, Mr D. Jeffrey Noel says:

“Further to our recent discussions please find below confirmation that we intend to implement a plan to extend our existing tumble dryer corrective action program to include, amongst other things, the opportunity for consumers to choose, as a primary option, a free of charge replacement for their existing unmodified dryers.”

He goes on to reiterate that “consumer safety is Whirlpool’s highest priority,” and to point out that its previous voluntarily implemented corrective action program had been “unprecedented in scale in the UK,” and had led to “many more consumers engaging with us compared to the UK industry norms.” He acknowledged, however, that “further effective steps” are now needed “to encourage those remaining consumers who for whatever reason have not chosen the modification and are still using an unmodified dryer to contact us to have the situation addressed.

“This Recall Plan,” says the letter, “will be a substantive change with both new remedies for consumers to choose from and new creative routes to communicate with them.”  

The letter sets out in more detail what options the Recall Plan will offer to consumers:

(i) A free replacement dryer;

(ii)The opportunity for an upgraded replacement dryer in exchange for a small charge or

(iii) A free of charge modification together with a voucher with a £50 value that can be used to purchase another Whirlpool product at the time of the consumer’s choosing

(iv) an age-related refund premium of between £35 and £150 including the collection of the affected dryer

Other provisions of the Recall Plan are:

  • In line with the PAS 7100 2018, ensure the communications indicate that this is a “Product Recall” and contain the words “Important Safety Warning” and communications at launch reflect that this implements substantial additional options from the corrective action program that has been in place to date
  • Ensure that the replacement options will be the lead offer in all communications
  • Provide replacement machine options that are available within a reasonable time frame
  • Provide options for replacement machines, together with digital content and clear product information so that consumers can choose the one that best suits their needs
  • Ensure that there are no charges for delivery and installation of a new tumble dryer or the removal of an unmodified tumble dryer
  • Give convenient options for engineer/delivery visits so they can choose an option that best suits consumers’ busy lifestyles
  • Provide flexible options for consumers to contact Whirlpool by phone or online including social media and live chat
  • Escalate vulnerable consumers to maximise their convenience.

How Whirlpool will continue to communicate the Plan to consumers, and with relevant parties, is also detailed: “Those plans include new measure to identify and outreach to vulnerable consumers, including non-native English speakers, and plans to work with government, industry and charitable bodies to reach vulnerable consumers.

“We will continue to focus on new ways to access effective communication channels, including increased use of channels alongside paid media, and focus on effective channels for key demographic groups.

“We will continue to coordinate our communications efforts with our distributors and retailers. We will also increase focus on our work to communicate information about the Recall Plan to those in the rented accommodation sector, including work with landlords and housing associations.

“We will provide you [the OPSS] with updates on the progress of the Recall Plan, and remain in dialogue with you as the programme is ongoing. We will discuss with you the content, format and frequency of those updates to ensure they meet your expectations.”

According to the letter, Whirlpool proposes to implement the Recall Plan today (11 July), when “we start communicating to consumers the options that are available to them under the enhanced programme, and start providing the free of charge replacement to those consumers who choose that option. This will enable us to prioritise consumers who have already contacted us over the past two weeks, as well as to properly test the robustness of our systems, ensure that the messaging to consumers is clear, concise and consistent and gain valuable feedback as we then extend to a nationwide campaign.”

That nationwide publicity campaign announcing the Recall Plan is targeted to commence, says Whirlpool, on Monday 22 July 2019.

The OPSS chief executive Graham Russell responded to these detailed proposals in a letter to D. Jeffrey Noel dated 9 July, which GC Magazine has also obtained:

“…the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS),” says the letter, “has reviewed the information provided by Whirlpool in detail in order to assess the adequacy of your proposed action to meet the requirements of effective corrective action and remove the potential for harm and reduce risk from a product which is not a safe product. This assessment has included reference to the PAS 7100:2018 Code of Practice on consumer product safety related recalls and other corrective actions.

“I can confirm that OPSS will accept your proposal on the basis set out in your letter of 8 July. To enable us to monitor the recall you must inform us in a timely manner of relevant information, which we will set out.

“We expect this action to provide for an effective recall of the unmodified products, such that it would not be considered necessary to issue a recall notice at this time. The acceptance of your proposal does not preclude OPSS from taking enforcement action in the future should there be any reason to reconsider adequacy and effectiveness of the corrective action, including any lack of sufficient and timely progress towards implementation.”

It appears that this long-running product safety issue has now entered a new phase. GC will continue to follow any further developments.

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