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Be savvy about white goods on Black Friday

Andrew Vaughan-Davies, former fire investigator and now paralegal in the product safety and consumer law team, gives some valuable insight to shoppers hunting for a Black Friday bargain.

Burnt washing machine
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Andrew Vaughan-Davies is a former fire investigation officer who worked with London Fire Brigade for 30 years.  He supports the product safety and consumer law team who work with clients who have been affected by serious household appliance fires.
Today is Black Friday, traditionally the day after the American holiday Thanksgiving. While this has been a shopping tradition for many years in the US, we have seen the phenomenon become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years with shops slashing their prices to entice shoppers.  
The shopping bonanza is upon us, with many pre-Christmas discounts, offers, and deals having already been launched, giving the consumer more time to grab a bargain than just one frenzied day.  Those deals include products and appliances that we purchase, perhaps for our homes, or as a gift for a loved one this yuletide. 
This blog highlights some of the ways you can protect yourself from unsafe products, as well as empower you in what you decide to purchase.
In my experience as a London Fire Brigade fire officer, including 20 years as a fire investigator, I have experienced and witnessed the devastating and tragic consequences of fires caused by products and appliances in the homes of Londoners.  I am now part of the product safety and consumer law team at Leigh Day and have already seen that those same tragic, life-changing, fires are occurring right across the United Kingdom.
Many products, such as home appliances, come with a guarantee and it is crucial that you register your appliance with the manufacturer. This means that you can be contacted should there be a problem with the product in the future. While you’re at it, you can also register old appliances that you may have forgotten about, or have perhaps inherited from the previous owner as part of a home purchase. The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) allows you to register appliance on its website.
To check if any appliance you have has been “recalled” there are a number of sites including Electrical Safety First's product recall checker  and the government's product recall website.
While you’re shopping, remember that unfortunately there are many counterfeit products that are sold, often at “too good to be true” prices. That should ring alarm bells!  Always buy from trusted, reputable retailers and make sure if you’re buying online that the website is authentic and genuine. Contact citizens advice if you’re suspicious.
Finally if you’re considering buying a new fridge or fridge-freezer to keep things cool this Christmas, a word of advice. All refrigeration products are insulated with polyurethane foam to keep the food compartments cold.  When this foam burns it produces thick, acrid, toxic smoke and intense, unbearable heat. The dangers of refrigeration appliances has been highlighted for over five years and change has been agonisingly slow in coming.  The appliances we use in our homes must not endanger our lives or destroy our homes. The industry must look at itself and prioritise the safety of their products to protect us from fire in our homes.
Which?’s research shows that only some manufacturers have led the way in improvements by covering  the refrigeration appliances’ insulation with a material that prevents ignition of the flammable insulation.  Ideally this would be metal, but other materials can be used to prevent the insulation from igniting and burning, just not plastic.  Some white goods sellers now state the type of backing material being used to prevent the foam from burning.  It really is worth taking the time to look.
Data on white goods that have been the cause of fires in London over the last ten years have been published online for everyone to access.
Keep safe and enjoy your Black Friday bargain hunting - and if you don’t have a smoke alarm pop one or more in your basket as well.


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