An investigation has found that in the UK, online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and Wish are not bound to the same laws as traditional retailers and are selling dangerous electricals, such as hairdryers, hoverboard chargers and extension leads, prompting calls for a change in the law.
One consumer said she heard a “loud crackle and bang” from a laptop battery bought via an online marketplace before fire broke out.
Experts at the charity Electrical Safety First warns of electrocution risks from these dangerous goods and wants online platforms to have more responsibility for what is being sold. It is believed that tens of thousands of these products could have been sold via online marketplaces.
The charity’s snapshot investigation found 70 listings of visually non-compliant electrical products for sale, thousands of which were likely to have been sold. Products were analysed from the images used to advertise them and considered to be so obviously substandard that they were illegal for sale to UK consumers.
Some of the listings had illegal plug fittings, some were fitted with EU plugs, and sold with a UK adapter to use permanently, which increases the risk of an electric shock or fire.
The growing popularity of online retailers has led to an increase in the number of fake electrical products sold to UK shoppers. It can be impossible to spot a fake as they can look the same as a genuine item on the outside, but often contain faulty components that can overheat and catch fire or deliver a fatal electric shock. A third of people who bought an electrical fake purchased it from an online marketplace. It is far too easy to set yourself up as a seller on these sites and there is not enough regulation in place to prevent the sale of dangerous electrical products.
Here are some important things to watch out for when you’re shopping online – especially in the run-up to Christmas:
- Don’t trust that the image displayed on the advert is a true representation of what you will receive.
- Look for the seller’s contact details and be wary if there aren’t any. Many fake electrical goods are made and supplied from overseas where they will not be safety tested.
- Don’t rely on reviews – these can easily be faked.
- If the price seems too good to be true – then it probably is!