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Special report – Freezer fires light up regulation concerns

In June, when a fire ripped through a concrete tower block in Bermondsey, a low-income neighbourhood in south-east London, residents initially blamed it on a lightning strike. “It was only later we heard the truth on the television,” said Kathy Pullady, who lives across a chipped tile-covered landing from the 17th-floor flat where the blaze took hold.

The London Fire Brigade had in fact been investigating the probable cause of the fire for years. In July it publicly pointed to a faulty fridge-freezer made by Turkish company Arcelik, Europe’s third-largest appliance manufacturer. The fire brigade says timers in certain models of Arcelik fridges have caused at least 20 fires in the UK since 2006. One man has been killed and at least 15 people injured.

Since 2005, the European Commission has recorded fire safety warnings for 37 fridge-freezer models. Sixteen of those models were made by Arcelik under the Beko brand, 18 by Swedish-based Dometic (including some fridge-freezer-oven combinations used in mobile homes), and three by South Korea-based Samsung.

Fire chiefs told Reuters they took the unusual step of issuing a public statement about the Arcelik appliances because the company itself had failed to publicise the danger. Consumer groups also charge the company — along with British regulators — with dragging its feet when it came to warning customers.

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