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Black Friday shoppers warned about buying electrical items from online marketplaces

Written by: Emma Lunn
Electrical Safety First says shoppers should stick with reputable websites of known retailers instead of third-party sellers when buying electronics.

The charity warns that consumers could end up buying dangerous electrical products that present a fire risk if they shop at online marketplaces.

Investigations by Electrical Safety First have found some extremely dangerous items for sale on these platforms, with the substandard or counterfeit products often very difficult to spot to the untrained eye.

In the UK, online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Wish are not bound to the same laws as traditional retailers.

This means that fake and other dangerous electrical products are being sold to unknowing customers. Containing sub-standard or counterfeit parts, they present a serious risk of fire or electric shock.

A survey by Electrical Safety First found that 58% of Britons will be shopping on online marketplaces for Christmas this year, with more than half (53%) of them saying they will be using these sites more than in previous years.

One in five of those planning to do Christmas shopping this year said they intend to buy electrical products to give as gifts – of these, 57% said they plan to buy electrical gifts from online marketplaces.

The charity has proposed legislation which, if passed, would force online marketplaces to take responsibility for the safety of the goods sold on them.

Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First, said: “With Covid-19 at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment, it is understandable that many consumers are planning to shop online for Christmas gifts to avoid the high street this year.

“We would urge people purchasing electrical products to use the stores or websites of known manufacturers and retailers such as those found on the high street, rather than resorting to third party sellers on online marketplaces.”

Electrical Safety First has set up a petition demanding that the law is changed so that online marketplaces will have to:

  • follow the same safety regulations as other UK retailers
  • make sure that electrical goods offered for sale on their sites by third party sellers are safe for use in the UK
  • ensure that any electrical products reported as unsafe must be removed from the site within 24 hours

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which?, said: “Which? has repeatedly found concerning levels of dangerous products being sold on online marketplaces, including items that are likely to be gifted over the festive period, such as Christmas lights and baby toys.

“With people relying on online shopping more than ever this winter, online marketplaces must be given more legal responsibility for the safety of the products available for sale on their sites, so they can keep people safe and prevent any dangerous products from ending up in their customers’ homes this Christmas.”

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