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Out of sight, out of mind: Are manufacturers doing enough to keep track of their dangerous appliances?

Survey suggests many consumers are not registering their white goods with manufacturers

Household appliances can cause fires
Jill Paterson is a consumer lawyer, partner at Leigh Day and consumer rights champion. She is passionate about product safety, patient & consumer rights. She tweets as @paterson_jill
A survey conducted for the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) shows that there are still problems with the white goods recall system in the UK.

The YouGov poll revealed that just over a third of consumers register all of their appliances with the manufacturer. The survey also found that just half of customers register their devices sporadically, and 9% of people never register. 

This means that if a product is dangerous and has to be recalled, customers often have no idea they have a faulty and potentially hazardous appliance in their home. The impact can be devastating.

Consumer research body Which? has found that faulty appliances are the cause of some 3,700 domestic fires every year.  The Government’s own fire safety statistics show that in 2010-2011 alone 19 fire fatalities were caused by faulty appliances and leads.

These statistics are worrying and identify a real issue, so what more needs to be done to protect customers? What role should the manufacturers be playing in all of this?

In a recent inquest we represented the family of the late Santosh Benjamin who died in a house fire. Coroner Walker concluded that the fire was caused by the failure of a fridge freezer’s defrost timer.

In a previous blog, I looked at Coroner Walker’s recommendations arising out of the Benjamin Inquest.

If these are all implemented they have the potential to radically overhaul the way in which all household appliances in the UK are sold and regulated. 

I am really pleased to see that the government is backing a new AMDEA website, which makes registering appliances much easier for the consumer than the current system. However, I believe that this is just a small step towards the radical overhaul that is needed if consumer safety is to be at the top of the agenda.

Registration at the point of sale?

If more people registered their appliances, there is no doubt that this would improve customer safety.

However customers should not be blamed for not doing so. Whilst the AMDEA website is very helpful, a requirement for electrical appliances to be registered at the point of sale would improve matters further. But what about the elderly and other vulnerable sectors of society who do not have internet access, how will they register? What about the companies that don’t subscribe to this system?

Registration at the point of sale would be a quick and easy process, and beneficial to both the consumer and manufacturer. 

What more should manufacturers be doing?

Call for a better registration system are welcome, and a higher uptake in registration of products will undoubtedly lead to faster and more direct contact with consumers when a manufacturer needs to recall a product. 

However, it is also important not to shy away from the major issue here. 

Manufacturers should ensure their products are safe in the first place, and numerous reports of house fires caused by everyday household appliances are alarming. An individual should be able to buy a dishwasher or washing machine safe in the knowledge that the lives of their loved ones will not be put at risk. There is an average of 6 to 10 recalls of major appliances a year. It is time that the manufacturers started getting it right.

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