World Politics

Charity investigation finds online marketplaces failing to stop sale of faulty electrical products

Online marketplaces are failing to stop the sale of faulty electrical products to consumers who may be unaware of the potentially dangerous implications of using them according to a charity’s research.

Electric Safety First, a consumer safety charity, found that 1 in 11 Welsh residents surveyed have had an accident with a product they had bought online.

Appliances such as hair straighteners, phone chargers, travel adaptors and laser hair removers were found to have electrical faults according to the charity.

Of the 15 products tested by Electrical Safety First, 14 failed against the UK standard. It says test failures ranged from minor non-compliances with markings to severe failures posing a risk of electric shock and fire to the consumer.

A survey commissioned by Electrical Safety First to accompany the startling findings from the lab testing highlights how many will put a price on their safety with more than 1 in 4 (26%) of Welsh residents surveyed admitting that they would knowingly buy something fake or substandard online if they saw it for a fraction of the price.

Of those who said they would, nearly 1 in 3 would do so if it meant bagging a discount of 30% or less compared to the price of the real thing.

The results of our tests are extremely worrying for those who buy electrical products from online marketplaces. No product that fails our tests should be being sold, and it’s very clear that the lack of regulation of online marketplaces – from government or from the sites themselves – is allowing those who sell dangerous goods to make a profit at the expense of consumer safety.

As well as legislation, properly funded enforcement at ports and airports are necessary to stop these goods from entering the country. If you’re buying an electrical item, stick to a reputable retailer whom you trust and if you spot any safety concerns, stop using it and contact the manufacturer. Buyers need to beware.


How can consumers avoid buying faulty products online?

  • Check the price – If it’s a bargain and the price is too good be true, then it probably is.
  • Don’t trust images – Seeing is not believing. Do not trust that the image displayed on the advert is a true representation of the product you will receive.
  • Look for contact details – If the seller’s contact details are not supplied, or there is a just a PO Box, be wary; many fake electrical goods are manufactured overseas, where they will not be safety tested and are produced as quickly and cheaply as possible.
  • Don’t rely on reviews – Previous happy customers may not be aware they have purchased a substandard or counterfeit item. Reviews will be based on the product working at one point in time, rather than the potential safety risks it poses.
  • Buy from a reputable retailer – by buying your electrical products from reputable retailers, or directly from the manufacturer, you can be assured you’re buying the real thing.

How do I check if I’ve bought a fake?

  • Inspect the packaging and item carefully. Look out for the tell-tale signs of flimsy packaging and substandard printing, such as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.
  • Compare your item to an online image from a trusted, high street retailer.Look for a legitimate safety certification label.
  • All electrical products will have one or more safety certifications on their label if made by a legitimate manufacturer. If the certification mark is present only on the packaging, but not on the product itself, there’s a good chance the product is fake.
  • Make sure everything that should be there is there. Fake products may not include supplementary materials such as a manual or a product registration card or even all the parts!
  • Check the plug. If you’ve purchased your product from a UK retailer, look to see whether the appliance has a three-pin UK plug or charger.
  • Trust your instinct. If you are still uncertain about your product for any reason, you’re probably right to be wary. Visit the high street to compare your product to those on sale in store; if your item varies in any way do not use it.

What to do if you think you might have purchased a fake electrical product?

If you suspect you have purchased a fake, stop using it immediately. Report it to Trading Standards so that they can take action against the seller.

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