Danger washing machine repair dates to be revealed

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Owners of fire-prone Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines will learn in the coming days how long they must wait for a replacement or repair.

Most fear many more weeks without a functioning machine, having already gone through Christmas and New Year unable to put clothes on a hot wash.

Some 519,000 machines sold since 2014 are subject to the recall, owing to an overheating door locking system.

Whirlpool, which owns the brands, said repairs would start on Monday.

Seventy-nine fires are thought to have been caused by the fault which develops over time, according to the company.

The announcement that these machines could be a danger was made on 17 December. Users of the affected appliances were told to stop using and unplug them or, alternatively, only use the cold cycle of 20C or less to reduce the risk.

Many of those affected said doing so had already been a huge inconvenience for the last three weeks, particularly over the festive period. Some have called for reimbursement of fees they have paid to their laundrette, but this has been ruled out by the company.

Whirlpool has received 1.2 million calls about the issue. So far, 60,000 people were found to have affected machines. They will all receive an email by next Friday inviting them to choose a date for replacement or repair via an online portal.

A company spokesman said those cases were anticipated to be completed “in a matter of weeks”. Whirlpool added in a statement: “In line with the commitment we made to our customers in December, we have been working tirelessly to ensure that we can now formally reach out to all affected customers who have registered with us to arrange to replace and repair their washing machines.”

Advice for owners

Whirlpool has set up a model checker online. Owners of Hotpoint and Indesit washing machines bought since October 2014 will need to enter the model and serial number of their appliance – found inside the door or on the back – to see if it is one of those affected. If so, their details will be added to a register.

There is also a free helpline, open every day, available on 0800 316 1442.

The company will email all those on the register to offer a replacement or repair and invite them to choose a date on an online portal for that to be carried out.

One of those affected by the recall is Janet McPherson, of Lampeter, south west Wales. The 65-year-old was fed up with the probability of a long wait, had lost trust in the brand, faced an eight-mile round trip to the laundrette, and was frustrated with Whirlpool’s customer service.

So, she bought a new machine just before Christmas.

“I made my vote by buying a different brand. It did not help with the Christmas budget at all,” she said.

Now she believes she should be given a refund for the faulty machine and is prepared for a fight with the company.

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Janet McPherson

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Janet McPherson has unplugged her Hotpoint machine and put it in the garage

She is not alone among owners in calling for refunds to be offered, as well as repairs or replacements.

They have been supported by MPs and consumer groups. A cross-party group of MPs on consumer protection said customers had been “severely let down” owing to the delay until machines were fixed or replaced.

The former head of the Commons Business Committee, Rachel Reeves, has also demanded the company give refunds to those who want them.

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at consumer group Which?, said: “It would clearly be unacceptable if customers were left for many months without adequate washing facilities in their homes, particularly when there is also no offer to cover consequential costs such as trips to the laundrette.

“The company should do the right thing and offer customers a refund, so people can get fire-risk machines out of their homes and quickly find a suitable replacement. There needs to be a full investigation about what Whirlpool knew about these machines and when.”

But the company said its priority was to ensure potentially dangerous appliances were removed from homes, which would not be guaranteed if refunds were offered. It said other costs would not be refunded.

It will begin a national advertising campaign about the issue on Monday, and is contacting vulnerable or isolated customers as a priority.

Whirlpool was heavily criticised for its initial response when more than five million tumble dryers, sold over 11 years, were found to be a fire danger. It only launched a full recall for that issue after four years, following an intervention by the regulator.