Grenfell Tower after the fire

Faulty appliances such as washing machines, tumble dryers and fridge freezers are causing more than 60 house fires a week in the UK – a figure which has stayed “stubbornly high” in recent years – according to a Which? investigation.

Government action to remove potentially dangerous electrical white goods from homes is falling “woefully short”, the consumer group warns, as it challenges ministers to explain how the fledgling Office for Product Safety and Standards will tackle the problem.

Its analysis, based on fire data obtained via Freedom of Information requests, reveals that the number of fires has stayed at a similar level for five years, with malfunctioning kitchen appliances causing close to 16,000 blazes across the UK since 1 April 2012.

Faulty washing machines and dryers were the most high-risk appliances, causing more than a third (35%) of fires between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016. Over the same period, cookers and ovens caused 11% of fires, dishwashers 10% and fridges, freezers and fridge freezers 8%.

Which? has written to ministers giving them three months in which to publish an action plan for the Office for Product Safety and Standards, launched last month. It urges them to set out the “true scale” of product safety risks in the UK and the immediate steps the oversight body will take to prevent further fires, including removing an estimated one million potentially faulty Whirlpool-made tumble dryers still in UK homes.

Last month a House of Commons committee urged Whirlpool to take “urgent action” to resolve the problem that has led to at least 750 fires since 2004. Its inquiry into risks from faulty electrical items was triggered by last year’s Grenfell Tower tragedy when 71 people died in a fire caused by a faulty Hotpoint fridge-freezer.

The move forms part of Which?’s new End Dangerous Products campaign, calling for a shake-up of the UK’s antiquated product safety regime to keep dangerous electrical white goods out of homes.

“It’s shocking that there are more than 60 house fires every week in the UK because of faulty appliances” said Peter Vicary-Smith, Which? chief executive. “The government must now publish an action plan for the Office of Product Safety and Standards, setting out what it will do to keep dangerous products out of consumers’ homes and tackle Britain’s broken product safety regime.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The government’s top priority is to keep people safe, which is why last month we set out our approach to further strengthen the UK’s already tough product safety system.”