The vice-president of Whirlpool was today forced to apologise to a mother who had to flee her home after her tumble dryer caught fire – as it was revealed the number of faulty devices in homes across Britain could be as high as 800,000.
Jeff Noel was speaking at a Parliamentary Committee today, after it was found more than five million dryers under Whirlpool’s Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit labels had a design fault that has caused at least 750 household fires since 2004.
During the hearing, he was asked to apologise to one of the witnesses giving evidence – Jemma Spur – whose dryer caught fire even after it had been modified by Whirlpool to fix a fault.
Mr Noel said: ‘I apologise to you for whatever distress this situation has caused to you, to your family, to your loved ones and your neighbours.’
He also agreed to look into publishing a forensic report about what happened at the home. And Ms Spur acknowledged the apology, saying she ‘appreciated it’.
Jeff Noel was speaking at a Parliamentary Committee today, where he aplogised to the family of victim Jemma Spur
Jemma Spurr, with her children Freddie and Amber, had to flee her home after her tumble dryer caught fire. She gave evidence to a Parliamentary Committee today
A Whirlpool tumble-dryer which burst into flames causing massive damage to a family home. The company today admitted that the number of faulty tumble-dryers across Britain could be as high as 800,000
Last month, the Government said it would issue a recall notice for 500,000 dryers that could potentially be a fire risk.
But executives from the company told a Parliamentary Committee that the true number could be 800,000 and it was working hard to modify those affected.
Whirlpool also revealed that in recent years, it had logged 54 fires in its tumble dryers and admitted that three of those were models that had already been updated.
MPs from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee were taking evidence over the scandal that has seen 1.7 million products modified.
Charlie Pugsley, deputy assistant commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said his teams had seen a wide range of faults causing fires in machines that had already been modified.
And Sue Davies, strategic policy adviser at consumer watchdog Which?, added that a review carried out by the Office for Production Safety and Standards was ‘completely flawed’ because data from Whirlpool had been ‘incredibly limited’.
Whirlpool vice president Jeff Noel was questioned by a UK Parliamentary committee today
He turned around and apologised to Ms Spurr for what she and her family had been through
Whirlpool representatives were asked by Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach why some victims were asked to sign NDAs, when the company had previously stated it wanted to raise awareness of the problems to encourage customers to register their products.
She said: ‘Why is it that you are trying to shut people up by asking them to sign NDAs?’
More than 750 fires have been caused by machines sold by Whirlpool. The government could step in and recall certain models
Mr Noel, from Whirlpool, defended their use, saying they are an ‘important part’ of any settlement.
He was asked several times whether Whirlpool will continue using NDAs over the faulty machines, but declined, saying it was a matter for third party insurers.
He was also asked about the Grenfell tower fire, and whether the company stood by its statement that the blaze, which started in a Whirlpool Hotpoint fridge-freezer, may have been caused by a cigarette.
But Mr Noel declined to confirm the company’s earlier statement, saying the matter was for the ongoing public inquiry.
He said: ‘I’m not in a position to say anything other than I think it’s appropriate for issues to have been raised – and I don’t particularly want to ascertain a statement relative to one item that was made by an individual before a legal body.’
Labour MP Vernon Coaker questioned Mr Noel’s decision to not answer the question, by suggesting Whirlpool’s answers appeared to be ‘about limiting liability’ rather than ‘helping identify the real cause of a fire’.
Whirlpool’s communications chief Jeff Noel today apologised to customers affected