Millions of Hotpoint and Indesit customers are up in arms at having to wait months to have their tumble dryers repaired, after the brands' parent company warned of a fire risk last November. With many feeling they've hit a brick wall from going to the manufacturer, we've alternative tricks below to try and get a refund or replacement.
We've received numerous emails from MoneySavingExpert.com users with at-risk tumble dryers who've been told an engineer won't be sent out to repair their machines for several months. Manufacturer Whirlpool says in some cases it's now booking repair appointments in January 2017.
If you don't want to wait, see below for what your rights are and how to try for a refund or replacement – see our Consumer Rights guide for more on your legal rights.
Update Tuesday 26 April: Since publishing this story, we've heard lots of success stories from those who've tried the tricks below. We've added some for inspiration, also below – if you've managed to get a refund, replacement or earlier repair, let us know in the comments or the forum thread.
What's the problem?
The issue relates to tumble dryers sold under the brand names Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda between April 2004 and October 2015. In total there are an estimated 5.3 million affected machines, though Whirlpool says "given the timeline involved, we believe that well over one million of these products will have been replaced and taken out of service".
So far Whirlpool says it's directly contacted 3.4 million affected customers – if you haven't heard anything but think your machine may be affected, check. To do so, visit the Hotpoint or Indesit safety sites, and enter your machine's model and serial numbers.
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What can I do if my machine's affected?
If your machine is one of those at risk, you can follow the official advice from Whirlpool – but we've also listed alternative tricks to try to get a refund if you're stuck.
THE OFFICIAL ROUTE: WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO
If your dryer needs repairing, Whirlpool says it will arrange for an engineer to visit, free of charge.
However this is likely to take months – there's a wait of up to 10 weeks just to arrange a date, and Whirlpool says it's currently booking engineer visits for January 2017. In the meantime, you need to keep an eye on your machine while using it. See Whirlpool's safety advice below.
Whirlpool adds that you shouldn't arrange for any other engineer to repair the machine, as the fault needs to be fixed by a Whirlpool engineer.
The company's also offering customers whose dryer is older than a year from the date of registration the option to buy a new machine at a hefty discount instead. You can choose between a vented dryer priced £59 (RRP £219) and a condenser dryer for £99 (RRP £299) – this price includes delivery and connection of the new dryer, plus removal and disposal of the old one.
But many customers have told us they're unhappy at being told they can buy a new dryer, even with the discount, as an alternative to waiting months for a repair. Andrew Firth emailed us to say: "I registered my tumble dryer on 8 February. I have to wait till November for the repair – however, I can buy a new one off them for £99! How can they justify this?"
We've had a number of emails from MoneySavingExpert.com users who've been told they'll have to wait months for an engineer to visit, and many are furious at the delay.
Heather says: "As I live on the top floor of a block of flats, since last year when I was notified that the dryer was faulty, I have not used my tumble dryer for fear that it would burst into flames and burn down not only my flat, but the whole block. As you can imagine through the winter this has caused major inconvenience."
Ian says: "The modification will hopefully now take place before the end of September. Is there anything I can do to get my money back or exchange the machine free of charge because I am not at fault and I feel it is unreasonable to have to wait such a long time to have this modification done? I am not happy living with a potential fire hazard in my home."
Karl says: "I registered my faulty tumble dryer... two weeks later I received an email to say, due to the backlog, we won't be having anyone visit until December 2016. On the email they did say we could purchase another tumble dryer off them at a reduced rate. Is this a good service? I am inconvenienced enough having to baby-sit my tumble dryer."
The official answer from Whirlpool is yes, but you'll need to keep an eye on it.
It says: "As the repair programme progresses, consumers can continue to use their tumble dryers. However, the company urges them to clean the lint filter after every cycle and ensure proper venting, in accordance with the original instructions for use.
"The company is also asking that consumers do not leave their dryers unattended during operation (ie, do not leave the house or leave the dryer on when asleep)."
Some of the affected tumble dryers have set alight. Whirlpool says "to date there have been approximately 750 product failures reported in the UK since 2004 and associated with this issue, across all tumble dryer brands.
"In a majority of those cases, the damage had been contained within the unit. We have three reports of injury related to this issue – two for smoke inhalation and one for a burn for which the consumer did not seek treatment."
What is Whirlpool doing to speed things up?
Whirlpool says it's trying to speed up the process and has recruited and trained an additional 350 call centre employees, an increase of over 75%, to help with enquiries. By the end of March it says it will also have recruited and trained an additional 350 engineers, a 35% increase.
Although it's currently booking repair appointments as far ahead as January 2017, it says it's "confident" these visits will be moved forward in due course.
If you feel as though you have given the company a reasonable amount of time to resolve the issue and you are still not getting anywhere, you can escalate your complaint by contacting the Ombudsman on 0333 300 1620.
That's the official story – now here are some key MoneySavingExpert alternative routes to try
If you don't want to wait months for a repair, or would prefer a refund or replacement anyway, there are several alternative tricks you can try. None of these are guaranteed, but they're worth a shot – let us know how you get on by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We've added some of the success stories we've had in since we first published this story below.
Trick no 1. Ask Whirlpool for a refund or replacement anyway
Whirlpool says it's only offering free repairs for affected machines, not a refund or replacement. So the official word from the company on getting a refund or replacement instead is "no".
However some forumites claim they have had success asking for a free replacement. For example, glentoran99 says: "They sent me an appointment date for modification. I said I would still be concerned about the safety – they cancelled the engineer and instead booked a replacement".
Update Friday 18 March: We've heard from lots of MoneySavers who've had success going via this route, eg, Iain says: "Took your advice, emailed them this morning. They rang early afternoon and offered me a new machine."
Others have told us that complaining to Whirlpool on social media resulted in their repair date being brought forward. For example, Dawn says: "Amazing. Just commented on Indesit's Facebook page and within 30 minutes got an appointment for the engineer to call on 21 March. The estimated date before this was October."
Trick no 2. Go to the shop you bought it from
Instead of trying to get a refund or replacement from Whirlpool, Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, suggests it's worth trying the retailer, exercising your rights under the Consumer Rights Act (and the Sale of Goods Act, which applies to goods bought before 1 October 2015).
He says: "Consumer rights law is very plain. Your contract is with the retailer you bought it from, not the manufacturer, and all goods you buy must follow the SAD FART rules – they must be of Satisfactory quality, As Described, Fit for purpose and last A Reasonable length of Time. If not they're defined as faulty.
"Clearly a dryer that could cause a fire in your home is not fit for purpose. What's more, you could also have problems with your home insurer – if you did have a fire because of a known fault, it might decide you're not covered.
"The law says within the first six months, it's for the shop to prove that the goods weren't faulty when you bought them. If it's been between six months and six years, it is for you to prove they were. The Hotpoint announcement can certainly be interpreted as saying the machine is faulty – and what's more, that it was faulty from the moment you bought it.
"So certainly if you bought a machine recently, it is worth going back and seeing what the store will offer you. Unless you bought it within the last month though, you're not talking a full refund here – rather potential repair, replacement or a partial refund."
Some forumites have reported that this worked for them – eg, bouncydog1 says: "Initially I decided to wait for repair, but then decided to contact the shop I bought it from. They have been brilliant – refunded my money and I have selected another machine". See our Consumer Rights guide for more on your legal rights.
Update Friday 18 March: Many have had success with this route too.
Robert says: "@MartinSLewis thanks for the info on the dryer problems – after getting nowhere with Hotpoint I rang John Lewis who got it sorted."
Ginny says: "@MartinSLewis @MoneySavingExp great advice! We sorted our Hotpoint dryer problem with @johnlewisretail who were brilliant!"
Roshanq says: "After reading the MoneySavingExpert post, I contacted the company I bought my tumble dryer from, and they said they are escalating cases on our behalf and someone will contact us within 48 hours, as it is unreasonable to expect customers to wait months for an engineer to come out."
However, not everyone has had success going to the retailer, so while it's worth a try, it's not guaranteed. Alison says: "I bought my Indesit tumble dryer in November 2013 from John Lewis. I contacted them today armed with the legal info above but they are refusing to replace the machine as they say it only needs modifying."
Trick no 3. If you paid on credit card, try the credit card company
This is another powerful trick to try, according to Martin Lewis.
"Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, if you pay for goods that cost between £100 and £30,000 and you pay for any of it on a credit card, the credit company is jointly liable with the retailer if anything goes wrong. What that means is you don't have to go to the retailer, you can choose to go to the credit card company and you have exactly the same consumer rights.
"Yet for a contentious issue like this one, there are a couple of advantages to asking for the credit card firm to sort it. The first is they have much bigger pockets and they like to get things sorted out, so it could be easier.
"However even more important is if they reject you, rather than having to take them to court you can take them to the free Financial Ombudsman Service. And it, unlike a court which only judges on the law, also judges on standard industry practice and crucially whether you've been 'treated fairly'.
"The downside here is the Ombudsman isn't a particularly quick process, but there's nothing wrong with trying this route at the same time as trying to get it resolved via Whirlpool.
"While there's no guarantee this will work, I've had successes reported to me after suggesting doing this on similar high-profile things in the past, such as PIP breast implant refunds."
For more info on how this works, and how to claim, see our Section 75 guide.Update Tuesday 26 April: This is a much longer process, but in the weeks since our 'Hotpoint help' story was published we've been contacted by a number of customers who have managed to get a refund via Section 75:
Basil says: "I made a Section 75 claim under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 to my credit card company as I had paid with a credit card. I argued that the tumble dryer was faulty at the time of purchase. The credit card company agreed. I got £319.99 back from the credit card company plus when Currys delivered a new tumble dryer (not Hotpoint) they took back the old faulty dryer at no cost saving a further £12.50, which they normally charge for disposing of old white goods."
Julie says: "@MartinSLewis I persevered after reading your article. I had s75 up my sleeve and my patience paid off... new dryer now here. Thank you Martin!"
Sue adds: "I contacted NatWest Mastercard chargebacks and disputes operations and on 17 March sent them a long detailed letter together with copies of emails and proof of purchase and asked them for a refund under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
"I received their reply dated 11 April, stating that 'a credit has been applied to your account'. They did however reserve the right to contact me at a later date should their ‘actions be questioned or if further information is received'. RESULT!"