With the cost of bills and household groceries rising steadily over the past few months, it can be tempting to look online for savings.
However, new research shows that some products sold on popular websites do not meet safety standards and can even be life-threatening.
A survey by Electrical Safety First (ESF) found that nearly four in ten people use online marketplaces to compare prices, but they fear that shoppers could be exposed to dangerous goods while trying to keep money in their pockets.
ESF examined electronics listed on Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, AliExpress and Wish and found that more than 50 listings were unsafe.
An electric vehicle charging cable purchased on eBay was at risk of electrocution and overheating when tested in a specialized lab – and a portable heater purchased on the same site was “lethal” with 240 volts running through a heating element with an insecure cover.
The study also found that hair dryers and hair straighteners pose risks of fire and electric shock, a kitchen blender that began to overheat and produce smoke after a minute, and dangerous e-bike chargers.
Lesley Rudd, Managing Director of ESF, said: “With so many people feeling the pressure, we are concerned that more shoppers than ever are putting themselves at risk from perceived bargains on online marketplaces.
“These products can incur dangerous costs. People buy everyday products such as hair dryers and phone chargers online without realizing the dangers.
“Aware of consumers’ desire to save money at the moment, third parties are flooding the UK with cheap, poor quality electronics via online marketplaces.
“We even see them investing in advertising to drive sales, even though their products put consumers at serious risk.
“Therefore, the government must act urgently to protect people by enacting laws that force online marketplaces to take reasonable steps to ensure that the products they sell on their platforms are safe.”
The top 10 most dangerous products found during the study were:
- A low power device with unsafe connector pins and unapproved internal electronic components. This item has already been recalled as unsafe by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). Listing for sale on eBay.
- A portable heater with easy access to live parts, with 240 volts running through the heating element, posing an acute danger to life. Listing for sale on eBay.
- A “watertight” extension cord with no waterproof properties that poses a significant risk of electric shock. This item has already been recalled as unsafe by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). Listed for sale on Amazon Marketplace.
- An EV charging cable has not passed lab tests, posing a risk of electric shock, overheating and possible fire. Listed for sale on Amazon Marketplace.
- A universal extension cord that poses a risk of electric shock when tested. Listed for sale on Amazon Marketplace.
- A 5-in-1 hair styler had an unsafe plug with no fuse and poses a significant fire hazard. The product can also be easily disassembled without tools, exposing live parts and posing a risk of electric shock. Listing for sale on eBay.
- A plug-in lamp, with an unsafe plug without a fuse and with a considerable risk of fire. The product also falls apart easily, exposing live parts and posing a risk of electric shock. Listing for sale on eBay.
- A 20W fast charger with a non-conforming plug and housing design that interferes with the power outlet switch. Listed for sale on Amazon Marketplace.
- Travel adapter (universal), with easy access to live parts and risk of electric shock. Listing for sale on eBay.
- A 3200 W blender posed a risk of overheating and fire during the test – smoke came from the motor when it was first switched on. Listing for sale on eBay.
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