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Unsafe electricals flooding UK market, charity warns

A faulty EV charging cable bought by Electrical Safety First (Electrical Safety First/PA)
Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Products ranging from beauty gadgets to heaters sold though online marketplaces have failed to meet safety standards amid concerns sellers are flooding the market with cheap, poor-quality electricals.

One electric vehicle (EV) charging cable bought from eBay presented a risk of electric shock and overheating when it was tested by a specialist laboratory, Electrical Safety First (ESF) said.

Two other EV charging cables bought from Amazon Marketplace also failed electric shock tests.

The charity warned that high energy costs were also leading to consumers to unwittingly choose cheaper but “potentially lethal” heaters.

A portable heater bought through eBay proved to be one of the most dangerous products uncovered by the charity, with 240 volts running through a heating element easily exposed or accessible through an insecure cover.

It also found bargain beauty buys for under £30 including hair dryers and straighteners fitted with illegal mains plugs lacking a fuse, presenting both fire and electric shock risks.

One kitchen blender fitted with a defective motor began to overheat and produce smoke less than a minute after being switched on.

The blender found by Electrical Safety First to emit smoke shortly after it was switched on (Electrical Safety First/PA)

Cyclists were also found to be at risk from unsafe e-bike chargers available on Amazon Marketplace, despite a previous investigation by ESF highlighting their fire risk.

ESF chief executive Lesley Rudd said: “With so many people feeling the squeeze, we’re concerned that more shoppers than ever could be exposing themselves to risk from supposed bargains found on online marketplaces.

“These products can come at a dangerous cost. People are buying everyday products like hair dryers and phone chargers online without knowing the hazards they present.

“Third-party sellers are well aware of consumers’ desire to save money right now, so they are flooding the UK with cheap, poor-quality electricals through online marketplaces. We’re even seeing them invest in advertising to drive sales, despite their products putting consumers at serious risk.

“That’s why the Government must act urgently to protect people by introducing legislation that forces online marketplaces to take reasonable steps to ensure the products they sell on their platforms are safe.”

An Amazon spokesman said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon and we require all products in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

“We have removed these products while we investigate.

“If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

An eBay spokeswoman said: “Keeping our users safe is our top priority. When Electrical Safety First flagged these items to us, we immediately removed them, and alerted buyers who had purchased one of the items within the last 90 days.

“We use block filter algorithms which aim to prevent unsafe products from being listed. These filters blocked 4.8 million listings in 2022. If an unsafe product does make it on to site, we swiftly remove it and provide product safety education to the sellers to prevent relisting.

“We also work closely with stakeholders and regulators to keep our platform safe. Our Regulatory Portal enables authorities from around the world to report listings of unsafe products, such as those flagged by ESF, for swift removal.”

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