The owners of certain brands of Hotpoint and Indesit tumble dryers are being warned to unplug them and not to use them under any circumstances until they have been serviced because of the risk of fire. The new advice, from parent company Whirlpool, overrides previous advice that the dryers were safe to use as long as they were watched at all times.
The problem arises when excess fluff is in contact with the heating element. This has led to a number of fires, including one at a London tower block which took 120 firefighters to control, the BBC reported. The affected brands were manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 and also include machines carrying the Creda, Proline and Swan labels.
Since the flaw was exposed in November 2015, Whirlpool has attempted to contact the owners of 3.8 million tumble dryers to arrange repair or replacement.Around 2.5 million households are thought to still be using the faulty machines.
Initially customers had been informed they could continue to use the machines so long as they were watched, but consumer group Which? threatened the trading standards office with a judicial review, claiming the advice was inadequate.
Along with fire chiefs, Which? has been pressurising Whirlpool to update its guidance and tell owners not to use their machines under any circumstances until they are repaired. Whirlpool, whose own machines aren't affected, has now agreed to that suggestion.
Whirlpool said in a statement: "Trading standards confirmed, following an internal review by independent experts, that the modification programme remains the most effective way of resolving this issue. As a result, we will continue with our efforts to provide consumers with a free of charge modification as quickly as possible. The modification programme will continue.
"Trading standards have also notified us that updated usage advice should be communicated to affected consumers. If your tumble dryer is affected by this issue then you should unplug it and do not use it until the modification has taken place."
Alex Neill, from Which?, said: "We now believe that a full recall is necessary and the Government must urgently address the issues with the product safety system as it shouldn't require the threat of judicial review to ensure that consumers are protected from dangerous products.
"Despite updating the safety notice on its websites, Whirlpool still needs to do a lot more. Our advice is to go straight to Whirlpool to demand your machine is fixed, but also try speaking to the retailer you bought it from."