‘I raised alarm on Whirlpool fire risk – and was ignored’: The furious customer whose machine was eventually replaced – after nine weeks
- Around 519,000 Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines have been recalled
- On every call Kathryn made to Whirlpool and D&G, her concerns were ignored
- The major frustration of the process was Whirlpool’s insistence it was not its fault
Weeks of growing laundry piles, rewearing stale clothes and travelling to and from friends’ houses with overflowing baskets of dirty washing – while apologising, thanking and offering to replace their laundry detergent and fabric softener. This is what thousands of Whirlpool customers can look forward to over the already stressful Christmas period.
I know because I was one of the first to report the now-infamous fire hazard which has led to 519,000 Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines being recalled.
It was October 9 when our Hotpoint Aquarius washer-dryer blinked itself off mid-cycle, short-circuiting the entire house. The appliance was four years old, well within its warranty period, so we assumed that Hotpoint – or rather, its parent company Whirlpool –would be happy to step in and handle the repair. In fact, it would take four botched repair jobs, three fire alerts, and nine weeks before we were able to do any laundry in our own home.
Kathryn Gaw first called Whirlpool to report the problem with her washing machine, which she was told was the result of a faulty heating element. There began an infuriating cycle of issues and botched repair. The machine was eventually replaced after nine weeks
When I first called Whirlpool to report the problem, I was told it was a result of a faulty heating element. An engineer came and estimated the element would cost between £110 and £230 to replace. Strangely, this repair was not covered under our warranty. Instead, Whirlpool convinced us to buy a £246 annual insurance policy with Domestic & General that would cover us for unlimited future repairs as well as an annual health check on our appliance.
There began an infuriating cycle of issues and botched repairs that would unwittingly place our house at risk from toxic fumes and fire.
It is worth noting that this D&G policy came into effect on October 28 – when on October 23 Whirlpool warned its US investors that it would be setting aside $105million (£80million) to handle a barrage of complaints linked to faulty machines.
This means that five days after warning investors about this upcoming issue, Whirlpool was still trying to get customers like me to cover the cost of its negligence while dragging D&G into a multi-million pound problem.
Of course, the first repair was unsuccessful. The overheating was a design issue, not a result of ‘doing too many washes’ as one engineer suggested. Minutes after the first engineer left we ran another wash. Almost immediately, the machine blinked, beeped and tripped the fuse box. There was also an acrid smell of burning plastic and metal. Another call, another engineer booked, another week-long wait for the repair to be carried out. Once again, the fault returned. Another irate call to Whirlpool and D&G. Another engineer booked.
It is worth noting that the Domestic & General policy came into effect on October 28 – when on October 23, Whirlpool warned its US investors that it would be setting aside $105million (£80million) to handle a barrage of complaints linked to faulty machines
Each time the fault was supposedly repaired, the burning smell would return, worse than ever. After the fourth repair, a thick grey smoke poured out from behind the machine, leaving our home stinking of singed plastic. What made this process so frustrating was Whirlpool’s insistence it was not its fault – and that we should simply call D&G. If the repairs were unsuccessful, we were told we could ask for a refund of our insurance premium and buy a new washing machine out of our own pocket.
On every call to Whirlpool and D&G I insisted the faulty machine represented a fire risk. Each time my concerns were ignored.
On November 22 D&G apologised for ‘any distress or inconvenience’ caused. It said it would not replace our machine and offered a refund of the insurance premium. Two more engineer visits followed before I received a surprise call from Whirlpool early this month telling me it had reviewed our case – and would be replacing our faulty machine.
On December 12, the washer-dryer was finally replaced – more than nine weeks after my initial complaint. One week later, the product recall was announced.
What have I learned from this experience? Don’t give up. Know your rights and insist on receiving the best possible service from your appliance manufacturer and insurer. In the meantime, get ready to owe some big favours to friends and family – as you turn up for Christmas with a sack full of laundry.
Don’t accept a whitewash
● Check if your washing machine or washer/dryer is one of the models affected. Visit: washingmachinerecall.whirlpool.co.uk.
● If it is, unplug and don’t use it.
● Contact Whirlpool at 0800 316 1442 – or 01733 282800.
● Insist on a replacement appliance – NOT a repair.
● Express your concern about the fire risk.
● Keep a record of all communication with Whirlpool.
● Don’t be pressured into buying insurance. The fault is with Whirlpool – and the firm should fix it.
● Don’t give up until you’ve got a replacement. It is well worth the effort.