My Frigidaire burst into flames — now what?

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Christopher Elliott

Question: I’m writing to you because it seems you are a man who gets results, and I don’t know where else to go. Last month, my husband and I woke up at 1 a.m. to our fire alarms going off and a strong smell of burning plastic. We quickly grabbed our toddler and baby, ran outside and called the fire department.

Turns out our four-year-old Frigidaire dishwasher’s electrical panel caught fire. Now we have $15,000 worth of damage to our house due to smoke damage, water damage, and a charred dishwasher area. My homeowner’s insurance only covers so much, and we’re paying plenty out of pocket, eating fast food to try and keep things cheap, not to mention dealing with the inconvenience of not having a kitchen with two young children. (Ever tried scrubbing bottles and dishes in the bathroom tub?)

When we contacted Frigidaire, they gave us the runaround and then basically told us without a receipt for the item, they would do nothing. It was installed by the contractor who sold us our house, so we don’t have a receipt. Frigidaire also went on to tell us that they reuse serial numbers on their appliances, so there is no way to track their products. Upon doing some research online, fires with their products, specifically dishwashers, are all too common (google ‘Frigidaire Fire’). But there is no recall!

At this point, even if we can’t get them to help us in any way financially, we’d at least like them to issue a recall. If our fire alarms weren’t working or if we weren’t home, this would have been so much worse. — Lauren Fitzgerald, Richmond, Va.

Answer: Convincing Frigidaire’s owner Electrolux to issue a recall is slightly above my paygrade. But at least they should be taking the responsibility for the damage caused by the fire, particularly if it’s a manufacturer’s defect.

Most warranties don’t last longer than a year. I don’t know the specifics of your Frigidaire warranty, but I think it’s a safe bet that you were no longer covered. But your research revealed that others have had issues with a burning dishwasher, so I think this may be more of a liability issue for Frigidaire. Asking for receipts isn’t unusual, but in your situation, it’s impractical.

The takeaway from this case might be to keep every invoice from your plumber and contractor, just in case your dishwasher spontaneously combusts. But that’s just the thing — who really believes their Frigidaire will burst into flames?

I couldn’t have known anything more without contacting Electrolux, so that’s what I did. Within 24 hours of reaching out to the company, a representative contacted you and asked you to document all of the costs your insurance company won’t cover. Electrolux will also visit your house to inspect the charred remains of your dishwasher and promises it will consider a recall.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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