Samsung recalls 2.8 million washing machines

By Hayley Tsukayama

Last month the US government first issued a warning that the machines are unsafe. Photo / AP
Last month the US government first issued a warning that the machines are unsafe. Photo / AP

Samsung on Friday announced a formal recall of 2.8 million top-load washing machines - more than a month after the US government first issued a warning that the machines are unsafe.

It is the biggest washing machine recall in history in terms of units and reported incidents, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said.

Samsung New Zealand said the top loader washing machines sold in North America are not available in New Zealand and it was not aware of any confirmed cases of this issue involving top loader models sold or supplied in New Zealand.

The washers can become dangerous when washing bulky items, such as comforters, which can cause the machines to vibrate violently or even burst apart. The CPSC listed the recall Friday, saying that Samsung has received 733 reports of faulty machines. Nine resulted in injuries, including a "broken jaw, injured shoulder, and other impact or fall-related injuries," the agency said.

Customer complaints submitted to the government described washers that exploded and lodged debris in the walls, levitated or ripped sockets from their screws. The recall affects 34 models sold between March 2011 and November 2016. The CPSC's website has a full list of the affected models. Front-load washers are not included in the recall.

"Before you do another load of laundry, contact Samsung and respond to this recall.
These top -loading washers present a risk of injury when used on a high speed spin cycle," said CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye in a statement to The Post.

Samsung did not respond to a request for comment.

Samsung is offering a few remedies to those who've bought the faulty washing machines. Those affected by the recall can elect to have a technician come to their home for free to reinforce their machines. That also comes with a one-year extension of the manufacturer's warranty.

Those who have purchased a new washer in the past 30 days can get a full refund. But this is not an issue that affects only new washers; many of the complaints Samsung received indicate that the machines worked for years without incident before exploding.

Users may also opt for a rebate toward the purchase of a new washer, which can be a Samsung product or another brand. The value of those rebates will be determined by the age of the washer and its model. Those who choose to get another Samsung washer will get up to an additional US$150 (NZ$204).

Until users make their decision, they are advised to wash bulky items only on the delicate or waterproof cycles. Samsung is also sending affected customers a "Home Label Kit" describing these safety measures, which can be attached to the washers.

The CPSC issued a warning about the top-loading washers in late September, while Samsung was dealing with the massive recall of its Galaxy Note 7 - which was also prone to exploding, because of faulty batteries. After recalling its initial batch of smartphones and issuing replacements, Samsung had to issue a second stage of the recall when the replacement phones also began catching fire.

Before you do another load of laundry, contact Samsung and respond to this recall. These top -loading washers present a risk of injury when used on a high speed spin cycle.
CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye

The close timing of the two faulty product issues raised some questions about whether consumers would start to doubt the general safety of Samsung products.

For Friday's recall, Samsung's engineers and officials worked with the government's engineers and compliance staff to fully analyze the affected washers and come up with a remedy, the agency said. Unlike Samsung's smartphone recall, the recall for washers was not fast-tracked - one reason for the long time gap between the CPSC's initial warning in late September and the start of the recall Friday.

With the Note 7 recall, Samsung first tried to deal with the problem without government intervention. That fact drew sharp criticism, as Note 7 owners may not have understood how serious the battery problem was without an official recall.

The US government did not issue a recall until two weeks after Samsung's own "voluntary" return program began.

The Note 7 recall renewed debate over whether the CPSC is hampered by laws that prevent it from disclosing when it has identified a problem with a hazardous product, or even that is working with a company on a recall. The agency must also consult with the company before publicly announcing any information.

"There is no question that Congress needs to give CPSC greater authority to take dangerous products off of shelves as soon as it identifies a hazard, and to exercise greater control over the recall process," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in an October 13 statement.

Meanwhile, Samsung is still cleaning up the last stages of its smartphone recall - which it estimated will cost as much as US$5.3 billion.

In an attempt to catch remaining holdouts who still have the faulty phone, the firm recently started discontinuing network service for the phones in some parts of the world, such as New Zealand. It has not announced similar plans in the United States.

- Washington Post

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