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National database of product recalls needed for faulty electrical goods

A national register of product recalls, accessible to the public, is urgently needed to make sure that faulty and dangerous goods – including tumble dryers and fridge freezers at risk of catching fire – are safely removed from people’s homes, councils and fire chiefs urge today.

Following the report of the BEIS Select Committee and ahead of a forthcoming Government announcement on product safety, the LGA, which represents 370 councils and all of the fire and rescue authorities in England and Wales, said there is now an urgent need for a centrally managed product recall database.

The database would allow consumers to check to see if their white goods or any electrical appliances were subject to a recall, through a simple, trusted system.

The LGA is also supporting the call for a central body to supplement and support local trading standards teams with product safety work.

Latest figures show firefighters are attending three fires a day caused by tumble dryers and the London Fire Brigade say nearly one fire a day in London involves white goods such as dishwashers, washing machines, fridges and freezers.

Industry figures show that a total of 516 products for all electrical appliances have been recalled since 2007, but no single, government supported register exists. Instead, consumers must either check individual manufacturers’ websites, which can be time-consuming and hard to navigate, or use a voluntary service.

There are no minimum requirements regarding the level of publicity required for a product recall and manufacturers can describe it how they like. This has created an opportunity for companies to minimise serious safety risks by saying a product “may overheat” or has a risk of a “thermal event”, when what they really mean is “may catch fire”.

The LGA is calling for a major publicity campaign, both to help make consumers more aware of the importance of registering new products, and for a new national recall register by promoting it as a single “go to” safety source for all electrical goods.

A single product recall database would make it easier and quicker for people to check product recalls for faults which could put them at risk of fire, councils argue today.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“With firefighters dealing with three tumble dryer fires a day and at least one white goods fire a day in London alone, consumers need all the help they can get in finding out about the safety of their electrical products.

“With more than 500 types of appliance recalled over the last decade, there is clearly a pressing need for a single, national register of product recalls which the public can access quickly and easily, instead of having to search company websites, or voluntary sites, separately.

“Manufacturers are wholly responsible for the safety of their products, especially when faults are entirely outside the control of the consumer, yet reading about product recalls can be confusing at best and dangerous at worst.

“Defective products, including fire-risk tumble dryers, are endangering lives, causing thousands of pounds of damage to homes and making people homeless. A plain English approach, spelling out the fault and potential danger, is needed in issuing a recall because people’s safety must be the priority.

“We’re therefore pleased that the development of a British standard for managing product recalls is setting out guidelines on how future product recalls, and the communications around them, are managed.

“However, this must also be supported by a new national database, and a national agency able to coordinate activity on product recalls and provide support to local trading standards in their frontline role.

“These measures can only work if the public are aware of them, which is why this database and agency should be backed up by a major publicity campaign to help flag it up to consumers as a trusted one-stop site to check all electrical goods.”

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