Samsung will reassess 32,000 top loader washing machines which have already been "repaired" as part of a recall process which has dragged out for nearly three years.
The backflip in Samsung's recall strategy comes in the wake of two fires and a further 25 incidents with recalled machines that have already been repaired by Samsung, raising questions about the effectiveness of the fix put in place by Samsung.
Meanwhile, NSW Fire and Rescue is considering asking the State Coroner to hold an inquiry into the fires involving Samsung washing machines.
In 2013, Samsung recalled 144,451 top loader washing machines after it found problems with condensation on the electrical connectors.
For the first two years of the recall, Samsung was only offering consumers a repair, which involved installing a fire-retardant plastic bag over the electrical connectors.
"Given Samsung has known about problems with the repair process for at least a year, we need Samsung to come clean and explain what 'mistakes' have led to 32,000 repaired machines needing to be physically reassessed," says CHOICE's head of media Tom Godfrey.
"We believe Samsung should cease reworking faulty machines until an independent and transparent review of the rework solution is undertaken," says Godfrey.
While many consumers have been exercising their right to receive a refund or a replacement for their faulty Samsung washing machines following a definitive statement released by the ACCC last year and a vigorous campaign by CHOICE, repaired machines still account for the largest proportion of rectified machines.
"This latest decision means there may be approximately 70,000 potentially hazardous washing machines in homes across Australia," says Godfrey.
"Repairs" still being defended
Despite the incidents with repaired machines, Samsung has stood by its repair job. When CHOICE questioned Samsung about it back in July last year, Samsung said: "We are 100% confident of the rework process where applied in accordance with the instructions provided to the trained technicians. The rework is a complete solution that, when applied correctly by a trained technician, eliminates the risk of an affected top loader washing machine overheating, smoking or catching fire".
NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello also backed the repair job saying that "the reworked machines meet the safety requirements of Australian Standards and are independently certified following repair".
Samsung Electronics Australia corporate vice president Phillip Newton said in a statement that "Samsung is making significant changes to the washing machine recall to address customers' key concerns. The recall is unprecedented in its size and complexity, but this is not an excuse. We are committed to continuing to improve our operations."
In total, there have been at least 82 fires and 180 incidents with Samsung's recalled machines.
The six models affected as part of the recall include:
The models were manufactured between 2010 and 2013.
We're reminding anyone who has an affected machine of their rights under Australian Consumer Law.
When a product has a 'major' failure under Australian Consumer Law, it is the consumer's decision as to whether or not they get a repair, replacement or a refund. When it comes to these top loaders, our advice remains that consumers should push for a refund.
For those with a repaired machine, if these rights weren't disclosed at the time of the repair we believe they should be allowed to have their reworked machine refunded or replaced at no penalty.