We decided to look at the safety of electrical goods following their identification as the cause of several high-profile fires recently, such as Grenfell and Shepherd’s Bush Green. The number of fires they cause each year has remained persistently high.
We used recent examples to consider the adequacy of the existing system of product safety in the UK. We found that reductions in funding for both local Trading Standards and National Trading Standards are inevitably having an impact. This, combined with the devolved and fragmented nature of the current system, is making it difficult for consumers to have confidence in consistent enforcement of required standards across the UK.
We found that progress on improving the safety of electrical goods has been painfully slow, despite a widely-supported set of recommendations made by Lynn Faulds Wood’s independent Review, published nearly two years ago. We recommend that the Government publish a full response to the Faulds Wood Review by the end of February 2018.
We found the limitations of the existing system to be exposed by the manufacturer Whirlpool’s response to a defect in its tumble dryers. As a result of its slow response, there are still a million potentially dangerous appliances in people’s homes. We call on Whirlpool to address this, by ensuring a resolution for customers with defective machines within two weeks of notification. In addition, we are uneasy that Whirlpool did not act when a separate defect came to light, which has caused a number of fires and led to two deaths in Llanwrst. We recommend that manufacturers should make available their risk assessments as soon as any defect is identified.
There appears to be a significant risk associated with plastic-backed fridge freezers, based on the number of fires associated with them and on testing that demonstrates their flammability. We believe that manufacturers should act now to use safer materials in advance of regulatory changes and that these products should be properly marked so that they can be identified following a fire.
In view of the fragmented nature of the existing system and the slow pace of change, we recommend that the Government should carry out and publish a cost benefit analysis of the options for reallocating and concentrating existing resources, both centrally and locally, with a view to combining into a single national product safety agency.
11 January 2018