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Total recall; SCANDAL OF KILLERS IN OUR KITCHENS; Report tells how product makers need to protect British consumers from danger goods in our homes.

Byline: LYNN FAULDS WOOD Consumer champion and Watchdog presenter

AFTER the Mirror highlighted the shocking number of tumble dryers bursting into flames in British homes, a report today lays bare the enormous scale of the problem facing consumers.

Following the death of mum Mishell Moloney we revealed some 6,000 dryers have caught fire in the past six years, injuring as many as 270 people.

Now consumer expert Lynn Faulds Wood, who chaired the government report, outlines the dangers in our homes - and spells out the changes she wants in the product recall system.

'When Craig Davidson bought a tumble dryer online for his new house, he arranged for it to be delivered a month later.

But before that happened the model was recalled as a fire risk.

The company delivered it anyway, and a few weeks later it caught fire - destroying his garage and plunging his family into two years of hell before his claim was settled.

It is a situation many families could potentially face under the current system.

Thankfully the government will today set out how the system can be improved, following a review of dangerous products and recalls, which I chaired.

Our aim was to come up with recommendations on how we could do it better.

This will be a relief to consumers, because a fire in the home can be devastating even without the nightmarish scenario of a member of your family being injured or killed. Even after a minor blaze, the smell of smoke would never really leave and you would need to completely redecorate to get it back to normal.

The emotional impact can be horrendous - then there's the time, money and disruption before you even begin to get compensation. All for something that should have been removed from your home in the first place.

What happened to the Davidson family should not happen in the 21st century.

When I was the presenter of the BBC's Watchdog in the 1980s and 90s, thousands of letters poured in every week about injuries, damage and even deaths caused by dangerous products.

EXPLODING

Then manufacturers said safety "didn't sell", and I helped to change the way many products are designed and helped to organise millions of pounds in recalls - for everything from exploding oven doors to killer cots.

There are holes in pen lids now because of a campaign I ran after children tragically choked to death on them, and the shape of food processors was changed after I highlighted the risk of people losing their fingertips.

Over the years many products have been improved to protect the public - but there is always more to be done.

The Daily Mirror campaign about tumble dryer fires has highlighted what is clearly a massive issue.

Yes, today the things we buy are much safer - but there are still too many homes, lives and cars damaged by potentially dangerous products.

The Mirror's campaign has shown the clear need for better systems to help people like the Davidsons to find quick, helpful information about dangers which might be around them; for businesses to learn best ways to handle safety problems and recalls if things go wrong; and joined-up action from the professionals who are there to protect us.

It's quite a challenge for us all. There are millions of recalled appliances, toys and vehicles still in our possession and in our homes.

Manufacturers can be very slow at announcing safety alerts and very reluctant to launch a recall, which can cost them millions.

The fines for doing a poor safety alert or recall have improved on paper, but few have been imposed in practice.

The big problem is that trading standards officers are the people we used to turn to in times of trouble, and they have seen huge cutbacks - meaning in many areas of the country they cannot get involved in helping us. The United States has had a well-regarded Consumer Product Safety Commission for over 40 years and a really helpful, clear website for dangerous and recalled products.

Companies and consumers there can contact the site with problems and they know something will be done.

We have had nothing similar here. Manufacturers in the US are also required to be very clear about the reasons for a recall - and the regulators have the teeth to do something about it if they don't.

In Britain, if manufacturers have created something they realise could kill you then they have to report it - but, as I discovered, the definition of something being a risk is not clear. We need to do better. Safety alerts and recalls in the UK produce poor results, with reports that responses have been as low as 10-20% for repairs and returns of potentially dangerous products.

The makers of appliances in all our kitchens have set up a "Register My Appliance" website to help find owners when there is a safety issue.

But over half of the professionals in the industry, in one survey, said they wouldn't sign up over worries about how their details might be used.

WARNINGS

So, what does the government plan to do about it? We'll find out in six months but here are just some of the ideas I am recommending:

We need a system you can trust - starting with an independent small body or even a "tsar" to make it all happen.

An official one-stop website where consumers and businesses alike can find out all they need to know about safety warnings and recalls - which will help you steer clear of the many dodgy websites increasingly out there.

I recommend looking at ways for funding a new system, without it costing you and me.

Data and information sharing by the professionals whose job it is to protect us - there is amazingly little of that happening at the moment- and research into how best to reach us to help and inform us.

The government response to those recommendations is published today.

They have welcomed most of the recommendations and plan to set up a steering group of business, consumers, professionals.

And in the next six months they will work out what an online centre of excellence and website might look like, how it will be funded and how it might improve our lives.'

features@mirror.co.uk

VOICE OF MIRROR: P6

Fines for poor safety alerts or recalls have been improved but few have been imposed LYNN FAULDS WOOD

CAPTION(S):

The woman said: "It's disgraceful the lies they are telling. I couldn't take it any more." CAMPAIGN How Mirror has led the way in calling for action on killers in the kitchen
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2016
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