Conline: 18 million Brits fall victim to counterfeit electrical goods online Image: Electrical Safety First

New investigation uncovers dangerous electrical goods for sale online

Popular e-commerce sites are being misused by ruthless sellers to exploit online shoppers. This exposes them to thousands of substandard, counterfeit and suspected recalled electrical goods.

Consumer protection charity Electrical Safety First discovered a shocking 1 in 3 UK residents have mistakenly purchased a counterfeit electrical item online.

These people were led to believe that the product they were buying was genuine. But a fake was delivered to their homes, which could pose a potential risk of electric shock or fire.

Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, Phil Buckle, said:

“We are appalled to discover how easy it is to buy dangerous electrical goods online. Our investigation uncovered appliances that were visibly substandard, counterfeit or even subject to a recall, with model numbers matching items on our product recall list.

“Latest figures show card spending on the internet totals £154 billion per year, so it’s unsurprising that 1 in 3 of us have mistakenly bought a counterfeit online. It’s evident that e-commerce websites must work to improve the way in which they regulate third party sellers to protect consumers from the risks posed by dangerous fake goods.”

Millennials are most likely to fall victim to counterfeit scams

The research found around half of 25 to 34-year-olds have bought fake electrical goods online. In contrast, less than 10% of people aged 55+ have received a counterfeit item after shopping on e-commerce websites.

The type of products causing concern included tumble dryers, Kodi boxes, kettles, travel adaptors, and hair straighteners.

Electrical Safety First’s technical experts identified a variety of safety flaws with the products. Such as a lack of protection from electric shock and the potential to cause a fire. Some of the advertised goods also matched items listed on the Charity’s product recall list.

The research found that 1 in 7 people have suffered damage or loss as a result of a fake electrical item they’d purchased online.

The Charity believes online sites must work harder to protect consumers from the dangers of counterfeit goods.

Examples found by the research

iPhone / iPad charger – Stocked on: Fruugo

The product is advertised as offering a ‘free travel adapter’ for permanent use on a non UK compliant plug. The use of a travel adapter for permanent use is not compliant.

Natural Himalayan Pink Rock Salt Lamp – Stocked on: eBay

Excessive strain is put on the plug from the salt lamp sitting on top. Bulb inside can be changed freely whilst the plug is connected to the mains risking severe electric shock.

Mains plug adapter to UK/EU/US/HK Socket – Stocked on: Amazon

Inner electrics visible through the socket holes. These should be covered with ‘shutters’ to meet UK compliance regulations. Poses electric shock risk.

Logik Tumble Dryer – Stocked on: eBay

Product has potentially been recalled. Model number matches the tumble dryer listed on our recall checker with the potential to overheat and catch fire.

 

Do’s and don’ts of online shopping

  • Do 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
  • Do 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
  • Do 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
Conline: 18 million Brits fall victim to counterfeit electrical goods online Image: Electrical Safety First

How to check if you’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; selling fake products is illegal and puts people’s lives at risk. For more advice, visit electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/spotthefake