Danger dryers in 11-month repair wait
Owners of tumble dryers requiring repairs in a fire safety campaign are being told they must wait 11 months for their appliance to be fixed.
In November, Whirlpool - the owner of the Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda brands - revealed the massive repair campaign following fires in owners' homes.
Initially, those with affected models have a 10-week wait for a call from the company.
They then face a long waiting list for a technician to visit their home.
Whirlpool bought manufacturer Indesit, including the Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda brands, in October 2014.
Investigations into reports of fires led eventually to the alert and repair programme covering these brands' dryers sold over more than a decade, from April 2004 to September 2015.
Some owners have reported their homes being damaged and destroyed, even after this repair campaign has got under way.
The company said it had been in contact with 3.4 million customers, with others being urged to check their models.
But they are being told that after making the initial contact, customers must wait about 10 weeks before being told of an estimated date for a visit from an engineer.
That date, for those registering now to have an engineer visit their home, is close to nine months, making an 11-month wait overall.
'I thought it was a mistake'
Among those on the waiting list are Joe and Lesley Crawford, from Liverpool, who have had their dryer for about five years.
They have two sons, aged five and three, so use the dryer a lot during the wetter months.
"I checked the model number and it came up as one that could be dangerous," said Joe, a 39-year-old graphic designer.
"I received an email, and I thought it was a mistake at first, but it actually said that an engineer would get to us in December.
"The dryer is in the garage, so am I supposed to sit out there when it is on?"
He argued that people should be given a free replacement, rather than money off a new model which is being offered by the company - a move he described as "turning a crisis into an opportunity".
Whirlpool said: "Given the large number of dryers affected, we know our customers are experiencing delays. We apologise for this inconvenience and are working hard to improve response times.
"We are working on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning the that earlier customers register, the shorter they will have to wait for a modification."
Whirlpool said it was aiming to recruit and train a further 350 engineers by the end of March, a rise of 35% on the current number.
Some 5.3 million faulty appliances were manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 and sold in the UK.
The company said that more than a million were estimated to have been replaced or are no longer used by owners.
The remainder require a modification that will see an engineer replace the back panel and rear drum seal.
Affected brands are Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline.
Owners can check if their appliance is affected by visiting the Hotpoint model checker or the Indesit model checker. The model number, usually found on the back of the dryer door, can be entered in the online checker.
There is also a helpline - 0800 151 0905.
Owners are being told they can still use their dryers, but they should clean the lint filter after every use, and never run the dryers while they are out of the house or asleep. Those whose dryer is more than one year old are being offered a new dryer at a cut price.
The decision to conduct a repair programme rather than a full recall was agreed with Trading Standards officers.
In a statement to the Business Select Committee, Trading Standards said: "The company continue to remain in regular dialogue with the authority, during which progress is monitored and reviewed.
"Part of this agreement was to organise an outreaching repair campaign to modify the affected products, rather than a product recall."
A full recall would have meant that customers might have been given a refund, a replacement, or a partial refund for older models. However, Trading Standards might have had to prove in court that such a move, rather than a modification programme, was a proportionate response.
The safety campaign has been extended to Proline and Swan brands of tumble dryer.
The two brands are not owned by Whirlpool, but are part of the safety issue. The owners of 17,000 Swan appliances manufactured and sold through Shop Direct have been contacted directly.
Some 41,000 Proline tumble dryers were manufactured and sold by the KESA Group between 2004 and 2005. It is estimated that about 14,500 are potentially still in use.
Efforts are being made to contact the owners of these appliances and to install modifications.