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'Smoke was coming from the door': Customers without washing machines for two months after Whirlpool recall

The company has said it is trying to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and denied prioritising UK customers over Irish ones.

One of the recalled washing machines in a house in Limerick.
One of the recalled washing machines in a house in Limerick.

CUSTOMERS WHOSE WASHING machines were recalled by Whirlpool over fire safety concerns have expressed their frustration amid delays in their machines being repaired or replaced.

In December, the company recalled several Hotpoint and Indesit washing machine models. Almost 11,000 affected models had been sold in Ireland at that time.

On Thursday, three more Hotpoint models were added to the recall list.

An issue has been identified with the door lock system on affected models.

When the heating element in the washing machine is activated, “in very rare cases a component in the door lock system can overheat, which, depending on product features, can pose a risk of fire”, Whirlpool said in a statement.

Customers whose washing machine has been recalled can choose to have a comparable replacement machine provided free-of-charge or else arrange a free in-home repair of their appliance.

However, several customers have expressed their frustration online at how long it is taking for their washing machines to be repaired or replaced. Some customers confirmed with Whirlpool that their machine was being recalled two months ago but are yet to receive a repair or replacement.

One woman who lives in Limerick received an email from Whirlpool on 19 December, seen by TheJournal.ie, confirming that her washing machine model was among those being recalled.

The email states: “Preparing for a recall of this scale is a complex operation and we are working tirelessly to ensure we are ready to start offering replacements or repairs to our customers from early January.

“We will be in touch as soon as possible to provide more information on next steps, including the free-of-charge replacement and repair options available to you.”

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The woman has contacted Whirlpool numerous times since then, but has yet to be told when the repair or replacement will happen. 

‘Completely unacceptable’ 

The woman said she is no longer using the machine but it is still in her house as she has “no way of disposing of it”. She said the door of her machine “actually started smoking” and is a fire safety hazard.

“Once it started to smell of smoke and some came from the door area, I switched it off and it’s been unplugged since. I’ve had no washing machine for over two months now,” she told TheJournal.ie.

“The situation is completely unacceptable,” she said.

The woman added that not having a washing machine for so long, including over the Christmas period, has been “incredibly inconvenient”.

In a message seen by TheJournal.ie, a Hotpoint Customer Care employee told her on 15 February the new versions of the model in question were out of stock. They said the company is not in a position to give her a refund to buy a replacement herself and apologised for the inconvenience caused.

When asked about the delays being experienced by some customers affected by the recall, a spokesperson for Whirlpool told TheJournal.ie said the process to provide replacement products “has required establishing new operational systems and capabilities in Ireland that include arrangements with third parties, which has taken some time”.

We apologise profusely to any customers who are experiencing delays in receiving a remedy. We are doing everything we can to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“Typically, the lead time between registering an affected appliance and taking delivery of a free-of-charge replacement is a matter of weeks and we are prioritising those who require special assistance.

“While awaiting a remedy, to avoid all risk associated with the use of affected models, consumers should unplug their washing machines and not use them,” they said.

The spokesperson added that if a person still chooses to use their washing machine despite the risk, they should only use cold water cycles of 20 degrees Celsius or lower “as this significantly reduces the risk”.

UK customers 

The spokesperson said “operational differences” have meant that some customers in the UK have received remedies more quickly than in Ireland but said it is “categorically not the case that UK customers have been prioritised”.

“We have been working hard to put the infrastructure in place in Ireland so that our customers are taken care of and can receive the same remedy options in a timely manner,” they added.

The spokesperson said that since the recall was announced in December, about 2,000 affected machines in Ireland have been registered with the company and almost 40% of these cases have been resolved in the last month.

Whirlpool has advised all customers who purchased a Hotpoint or Indesit washing machine since 2014 to contact them immediately in order to identify whether their product is affected.

The company has requested that all owners of these three additional models check if their appliance is affected, even if they have previously done so.

An online model checker tool is available here. Alternatively, customers can contact Whirlpool’s Customer Care team by telephone on 0818 903 281, with their product’s model number to hand.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has been monitoring the situation, as it does when any product is recalled.

“If any manufacturer, importer or distributor operating in Ireland believes their product presents serious risk they are legally required to take action to prevent the product causing harm to consumers. This may require recalling their product that has already been bought by consumers,” a CCPC spokesperson told us. 

The law indicates that product recalls should be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible, however, it does not expressly specify a timeframe in which this must be completed. The appropriate timeframe varies on a case-by-case basis.

“The CCPC has, and continues to have, considerable engagement with the manufacturer in relation to the recalls of these products in Ireland.

“From our engagement with the manufacturer we know that there is a system in place for Irish consumers to avail of a repair or replacement for their appliance.

“We know that a significant number of Irish consumers have had their appliance replaced or fixed. We continue to monitor and engage with the manufacturer in relation to these recalls,” they added. 

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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