Hundreds of thousands of owners of unmodified Whirlpool tumble dryers have been urged to unplug them immediately as the firm faces an “unprecedented” order to recall the machines.
Whirlpool has been informed the Government intends to serve a recall notice over concerns that an estimated 500,000 unmodified tumble dryers pose a potential fire risk.
It comes after millions of machines under its Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline brands were identified as requiring a fix to make them safe to operate.
Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said consumer safety was a “Government priority” as she revealed plans to make the company recall remaining unmodified appliances.
Whirlpool urged anyone with an unmodified machine to contact them.
A spokeswoman said: “Safety is our number one priority and we remain committed to resolving any affected tumble dryers that have not yet been modified.
“The crucial message to anyone who still owns an affected dryer and has not already had it modified by Whirlpool is to contact us immediately on 0800 151 0905.
“In the meantime, anyone with an affected dryer that has not been modified should unplug it and not use it until the modification has been completed.”
The company said it was in ongoing discussions with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) “to agree additional measures we have proposed to reach consumers who have not yet engaged with this safety programme”.
However, Ms Tolhurst told MPs on Tuesday that after reviewing the company’s actions “we have informed Whirlpool of our intention to serve a recall notice as a next step of the regulatory process”.
“This is unprecedented action,” she told the Commons.
The Government has been criticised over the time it has taken to serve Whirlpool with a recall notice.
Whirlpool issued a safety warning in 2015 after it found Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit dryers had a fault making them a fire risk and launched a programme of modifying faulty machines.
The problems were blamed on causing at least 750 fires over an 11-year period.
Rachel Reeves, chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEIS), said: “Finally, over a year since we called for a recall of defective machines and 18 months since the BEIS Committee reported on Whirlpool’s inadequate response to safety flaws, the Government is at last showing some teeth and taking long overdue action on Whirlpool.
“The company’s modification of defective machines has proceeded at snail’s pace, leaving up to half-a-million unmodified and potentially unsafe tumble driers still in people’s homes.”
She called on the Government to explain what had prompted it to pursue the recall, as well as a “full explanation” from Whirlpool when the company appears before MPs in July.
Which? said the recall move was a “hugely significant step”, but suggested the notice should include modified machines as well.
The consumer group’s head of campaigns, David Chaplin, said: “But there will be serious questions if this recall only addresses the 500,000 unmodified machines that Whirlpool has already struggled to locate.
“The Government must urgently explain what it is going to do about the millions of modified machines still in people’s homes, following serious concerns that have been raised by people who have experienced fires, smoke and burning despite the so-called fix.”
A review by the OPSS found a low risk of harm or injury from modified machines and recommended consumers could continue using them.