Lifestyle

New Which? tool reveals hundreds of potentially unsafe fridge and freezer models still on sale – is your on the list?

Tests found that appliances with plastic backing can be extremely flammable – so it's worth checking to see if yours is safe using a free online tool.

Tests by the consumer magazine found that plastic backing used on some fridges and freezers can help a fire spread.

Unlike metal or aluminium backs, plastic ones can pose a fire risk, according to the London Fire Brigade and Electrical Safety First.

The Grenfell Tower inquiry report also found that plastic casing is combustible and will help a fire spread.

But retailers including Currys PC World, John Lewis, Argos and AO.com continue to sell appliances with plastic backing.

On January 21, when the investigation was carried out, AO.com’s website had 173 plastic-backed models on sale – more than any other retailer.

Argos listed 137 plastic-backed products, Currys PC World had 56 and John Lewis & Partners had three.

All four said that they now have fewer plastic-backed products on their websites than they did on January 21.

Some retailers said this was because some products were incorrectly listed as plastic, when they were actually metal-backed.

But Which? says this means shoppers aren't always being given the right information about the products they're buying, making it hard to know if their appliance is safe or not.

Fridges often have a 10-year warranty, which means they could be a silent danger in your home for years.

Even with the updated listings, Which? estimates there are still between 148 and 241 plastic-backed fridges and freezers on sale, with the largest number at AO.com.

AO.com has now promised to stop selling the potentially unsafe models by July.

Currys PC World and Argos did not provide a date for when their products would be removed from sale, but said they were phasing them out.

John Lewis said it hasn't sold plastic-backed appliances since April.

The consumer magazine has launched a free online tool where you can check what type of backing your appliance has.

We take you through how you can use the tool below.

The risk of a fridge fire is "very low" even with plastic backing, according to Which?, and all plastic-backed appliances on sale will have passed safety tests.

But Which? is campaigning for stronger tests as it says the current ones don't really replicate a house fire.

Changes to safety standards are due to be introduced this year, but Which? does not expect these to come in for at least a few months.

The majority of common brands on sale at AO.com, Argos, John Lewis and Currys PC World said that they had already stopped making and supplying plastic-backed fridge freezer models to UK retailers.

Hisense, Hoover and Lec said they are no longer making plastic-backed appliances but leftover stock may still be sold off.

Alex Neill, managing director of Which? home and product services, said: "It’s a big win for consumers that some manufacturers and retailers have acted, but some are still dragging their feet.

Your rights if you have a plastic-backed fridge

Under the Consumer Rights Act you only have 30 days to reject something if it is faulty.

Meanwhile the Consumer Contracts Regulations allows you to get a refund from the day you place your order until 14 days after you receive your item.

You then have another 14 days from the date you tell the retailer you'd like to cancel your order to return the goods to them.

But a reputable retailer may give you a refund after that time as a goodwill gesture, especially if it's faulty.

If you're outside the 30-day period, you have to give the retailer one opportunity to repair or replace any goods or digital that are of unsatisfactory quality, unfit for purpose, or not as described.

Unfortunately, it may be difficult to persuade your retailer that plastic backing comes under the "unsatisfactory quality" or "unfit for purpose" rules until the new safety standards come in.

Many fridges come with a 10-year warranty, but this usually only covers repairs if the appliance is no longer working as it should.

For now, it's unlikely you'll get a refund for a plastic-backed appliance right now unless you bought one in the last 30 days, or it's faulty.

“Responsible retailers need to put the safety of their customers first."

An AO spokesman said: "Over the last four months, together with manufacturers, we have more than halved the number of plastic backed fridges in our range."

Currys PC World said it only sells 16 plastic-backed fridges now, which are in clearance sales and comply with safety standards.

An Argos spokesman said it is updating its website to make sure it lists correct information about what type of backing its appliances have.

John Lewis said it has also updated its website to provide correct information about backings.

How do I check if my fridge or freezer is unsafe?

Which? has launched an online tool which allows you to check and see if your appliance has plastic backing.

All appliances have either plastic, metal, or aluminium laminate backs, but the consumer magazine no longer recommends plastic-backed fridges or freezers because they are flammable.

The team has collected data on hundreds of appliances so you can see what type of backing yours has.

To use the tool, visit the Which? website, and search for your appliance by brand name and code.

Click on your fridge, and the tool will then show you what type of appliance it is, what type of backing it has, and if the backing is flame retardant, which means it will stop or slow down the spread of fire.

The tool will also tell you what the experts say about the appliance, and if it's a "best buy".

Last year, we revealed that kids' Halloween costumes can catch fire in two seconds.

In previous years, retailers such as Poundworld and Poundland have been forced to recall a range of masks and costumes over fears they put the wearer's safety at risk.

There has also been a warning over kids' slime toys which contain dangerous chemicals.


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