If you are considering buying any electrical products online you may be worried to learn that some of the biggest e-commerce sites in the world are allowing the sale of electrical items that are not just non-compliant with the UK law, but are in fact downright dangerous. It seems that these sites are not doing nearly enough to stamp out the presence of dubitable retailers selling such goods.
Electrical Safety First is a consumer safety charity, and towards the end of last year it purchased products from Amazon Marketplace, eBay, and Wish, and tested them in a laboratory. Of the 15 products purchased, the charity’s expert technical team found faults with no fewer than 14 of them. Some of the faults were minor, such as non-compliance with markings, but other products could catch fire, explode, and cause electric shock. These products were common everyday purchases such as phone chargers, hair dryers, travel adaptors, and laser hair removers.
One very popular site with those seeking dirt-cheap bargains is Wish. The charity purchased a phone charger which was similar in shape and colour to one made by Apple. It was fitted with no protective devices at all which meant that it could rupture internally which would result in an explosion in the event of a failure. Indeed, they captured footage of just that occurring. They also purchased a hair dryer from Wish which they then tested by restricting the product’s air flow. The hair dryer caught fire, with flames emitting from the front, which would obviously set the user’s hair on fire. Another purchase from Wish was a counterfeit pair of GHD hair straighteners which were found to pose a risk of electric shock.
Wish was not the only culprit. Electrical Safety First also bought a laser hair remover from eBay which posed a severe risk of electric shock because it was possible to access live electrical parts. They also purchased a modelling hair comb on Amazon Marketplace which had a non-compliant plug. It is deemed illegal to sell this in the UK under our current safety laws. In the event of a short circuit, the plug could cause a fire. The charity believes that these marketplaces are quickly becoming the wild west of the web, and that urgent action should be undertaken in order to tackle these problems.
Furthermore, Electrical Safety First has found that nearly one in four Brits have been duped by purchasing an electrical product online from a third-party seller who was advertising the product as genuine, only to find out that it was a fake. The charity says that, even more worryingly, it has found that one in ten people has had first-hand experience of an electric shock or fire caused by an electrical product that they have bought online.
However, this is not the first time that the charity has raised the alarm about sub-standard electrical products available online. In 2018, having found dangerous electrical products for sale across a selection of e-commerce sites, Electrical Safety First decided to carry out a test by registering the name "Dangerous Electrical Ltd" with an e-commerce site in order, purportedly, to begin selling electrical products. They used a fake name, passport number, and date of birth, and – lo and behold – the site accepted them as a seller.
What is also worrying is that Electrical Safety First also commissioned a survey of 3,006 British adults over 16 which found that no fewer than 29% of them – nearly a third – admitted that they would knowingly buy something fake or substandard online if they were getting it for a fraction of the usual price. Nearly one in three of those said that they would do so if they were getting a discount of as little as 30% or less off the price of the real thing.
If you are purchasing electrical goods online, the charity says that you should always buy from a reputable retailer or the manufacturer. Furthermore, you should not rely on reviews as they are only based on the product working at one point in time and have no bearing on any safety risks that may be inherent in it. In addition, if there are no contact details this is not a good sign, as many electrical products are manufactured abroad where they are produced as quickly and cheaply as possible and will not have been tested for safety.
It is always recommended that after buying un-certified cheap appliances it’s good to have them tested by Pat Testing Companies just to ensure that there are no accidents when using these products.