Hotpoint Quadrio: Opening with a bang
Hotpoint describe their Quadrio fridge freezer as an appliance that stands out from the crowd, offers cutting edge design, energy efficiency as well as the ultimate cooling technology. But it's not so keen to shout about another feature - namely one that makes it go bang. Chris Hollins reports
According to Hotpoint, their Quadrio fridge freezer offers 'complete peace of mind', but we've heard from some Watchdog viewers who bought their Quadrios before July 2009 and found that on opening their fridge doors there was a flash of light coupled with a loud bang. The cause of the problem was the cable which is located at the top of the fridge door. When the door is opened and closed a pressure is applied to the cable. This wasn't so much of a problem when our viewers started using their Quadrios. But over a period of weeks, the stress began to tell and sometimes within a matter of months, the wiring fractured.
We put a fridge, bought as late as December 2009, in a testing lab. It showed signs of the same problem after repeated use, despite the fact it had been slightly modified by Hotpoint. Product Safety Tester Richard Poate told us: "There's a clear design fault with this Hotpoint product. The mains cable is routed directly through the door, it's inevitable that after a period of time with repeated opening and closing those cables are going to become exposed".
The Quadrios we've heard about are the FF4DX and the FF4DK models manufactured between 2008 and 2010. Although all have developed the same problem, Hotpoint's response to complaints has varied. Some customers have been given replacements. While others have had new parts, or free repairs, but only after fighting tooth and nail.
Hotpoint has had criticism from some customers for what it said after this problem developed. As for what it said beforehand - well that's making customers even more angry, because Hotpoint clearly knew about the problem, in February 2011 it owned up to the problem in response to reviews on the online consumer site "Which?". But eight months on you'll still find no warnings about it on the Hotpoint website.
Hotpoint say all Quadrios produced since October 2010 have been further modified, with an altogether different wiring design - making it more flexible and meaning it shouldn't fracture. Which is good news for new buyers, but no help to those whose Quadrios are more than two years old - and who are unaware they could blow at any time.
According to Richard Poate: "There isn't really a fire risk associated with this fault but there certainly is a risk of electrocution, of electric shock, particularly if you happen to be cleaning in the area where those wires are exposed. It's really not acceptable for this product to be tripping for people's electrics, for people to be losing the contents of their fridge freezer and to have this small risk of electric shock. In my opinion, Hotpoint really need to do something about this and should recall the products".
Hotpoint is aware of a problem caused by the design of an electrical cable located inside the top of the door of an initial production of Quadrio fridge freezers.
This problem only affects a very small number of Quadrios manufactured between June 2008 and October 2010. All Quadrio models currently on sale through retailers are built to a modified design that has eliminated this problem.
The issue is caused by wear to the plastic insulation sleeve that houses the electrical wires that feed into the left hand door of the fridge. These wires are connected to a heater on the fridge door that comes on intermittently to ensure condensation does not build up within the fridge. With repeated opening and closing of the door the cable insulation on the older models has been known to split leaving the wires slightly exposed.
In a few cases, this problem has caused the appliance to 'short' causing the household circuit to trip. While we recognise this has caused inconvenience and could be alarming, we would like to reassure our customers that this will not produce an electric shock when opening or closing the doors in the normal way.
The issue first came to our attention in 2009. In order to evaluate any possible risks to consumers, we immediately instigated a thorough investigation and assessment in line with the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. This assessment concluded that the risk to consumers was 'extremely low' and a product recall was therefore not necessary. This is because the wires are located at the top of the door, within a plastic casing that insulates them from the rest of the appliance; therefore, there is no possible connectivity between the wiring and the metal parts of the door or the door handles. Also the area where the cable insulation has been known to split is located in a recessed part of this casing so, in the course of normal use of the fridge, there is little chance of accidentally touching the wires. Our owners' handbook states clearly that the appliance must be turned off and disconnected from the mains before cleaning.
An initial modification was introduced in 2009, and we instructed our service engineers to automatically replace the hinge block cover to prevent the cable from being squeezed, and to check the wiring on any call to a Quadrio manufactured after June 2008, regardless of whether the appliance has suffered this issue or not. A final modification was introduced in October 2010 and this has completely resolved the issue.
We have been, and will continue to provide free-of-charge repairs to any owner of a Quadrio fridge freezer, manufactured between June 2008 and October 2010, experiencing this issue, regardless of the status of their warranty.
Anyone who purchased a Quadrio manufactured between June 2008 and October 2010 can contact our Quadrio Helpline if they have any problems or concerns.
Quadrio Helpline Telephone: 01733 287 843
Quadrio Helpline Email: email@example.com
We accept that this failure is not in keeping with our normal high product quality standards and we apologise unreservedly for any inconvenience caused as a result of this. We would also like to reassure all consumers that the reliability and safety of our products is always of the highest priority for Hotpoint.
In response to your questions
Did Hotpoint take any steps to warn customers of the potential fault with the Quadrio as soon as it was brought to the company's attention? If not, why not? If yes, why were the customers in the cases detailed above not given any warning or advice?
When the fault was first reported to us in 2009, we immediately began a thorough investigation and assessment to ascertain the cause of the problem and the risk, if any, to customers. This assessment concluded that the risk to consumers was extremely low, and a product recall was therefore not necessary. However, when it became apparent that this issue was occurring in a small number of cases, we amended our internal customer service process to ensure that Quadrio customers were prioritised and to ensure we could book a free engineer visit as quickly as possible.
What is Hotpoint's response to customers who say that not enough was done to warn them or fix the problem before it occurred?
What was clear from the assessment undertaken in 2009 is that there was an extremely low risk to any consumer or member of the public. Therefore, we did not believe that a warning would be necessary. We maintain that in the vast majority of cases, the appliances pose absolutely no additional risk to consumers; and, in the very small number affected by this problem, the risk is very low. We have ensured that our website provides the telephone helpline and email details for any Quadrio customer experiencing problems or with concerns:
Quadrio Helpline Telephone: 01733 287 843
Quadrio Helpline Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please confirm which Quadrio models are potentially affected by this issue and the dates in which they were manufactured. Why has Hotpoint not recalled these models?
The problem potentially affects the following models, which were manufactured between June 2008 and October 2010: FF4DK, FF4DX, FF4DKTVZ, FF4DSB, FF4DXTVZ. As the thorough investigation we carried out in 2009 (in line with The General Product Safety Regulations 2005) concluded that the risk to consumers was extremely low, a product recall was not necessary.
Please explain how later models of the Quadrio have been modified to prevent this fault occurring. When were these design modifications drawn up and when did they go into manufacture?
In October 2010, we introduced a new 'Super Flex' cable to replace the electric cable used in earlier models. This had been extensively tested to ensure that it would remain flexible after repeated movement and flexing. The introduction of this cable has completely rectified the problem.
Does Hotpoint accept that this is a safety issue?
While we recognise that when the problem has occurred, it has caused inconvenience, we would like to reassure our customers that there is no possible connectivity between the wiring and the metal parts of the door, or door handles as the wires are safely located within the plastic parts of the door. In addition, the wires that have caused the problem in a small number of appliances are situated in a recessed part of the plastic casing at the top of the door. This part of the appliance would not be touched during normal use of the fridge. Our owners' handbook states clearly that the appliance must be turned off and disconnected from the mains before cleaning.
When, in 2009, Mrs Duke first contacted us about a problem with her Quadrio fridge freezer the issue was only just coming to light. As a result of our thorough investigations and assessments that were taking place at that time, we were able to modify the repair to minimise any further problems. We were very sorry to hear that the problem has recurred in Mrs Duke's Quadrio - this is almost certainly because her repair was made before these modifications were put in place. We have now set an appointment for Mrs Duke when we will install the Super Flex cable that will eliminate this problem completely. We could certainly have an engineer with her sooner than 10 October, but this date suited Mrs Duke as she is only available on Monday.
When Mrs Duke called us again last Friday, as a result of seeing the trailer about this issue on last week's programme, she was wrongly advised by one of our helpline staff that she would need to cover the cost of this latest repair herself. This was a mistake and we apologise unreservedly; any engineer visits or repairs to Quadrios manufactured between June 2008 and October 2010 that are suffering with this problem are completely free of charge. We know that Mrs Duke immediately took out an annual service plan with an independent provider; Hotpoint will, of course, reimburse her the cost of the premiums for this.
We are sincerely sorry that Mrs Duke has experienced this problem with her Quadrio and the advice she was given. We pride ourselves on our customer service as much as the quality and effectiveness of our products and we apologise that on this occasion, we have fallen below our usual high standards.