04 July 2024

Charity warns England fans against cheap electronics from online marketplaces

04 July 2024

A safety charity has warned England fans against buying cheap electronics from online marketplaces amid a “blitz” of advertising as excitement builds ahead of upcoming games.

Electrical Safety First is urging fans bombarded with ads for discounted goods “don’t bring it home” in a new campaign to raise awareness of unregulated online marketplaces.

Previous investigations by the charity have uncovered substandard and dangerous electrical products across many major online marketplaces.

Examples of dangerous goods found last year via third party sellers across a variety of online marketplaces include portable heaters posing a serious risk of electrocution, beauty buys such as hair straighteners and hair dryers featuring illegal UK plugs lacking essential safety components and substandard e-bike chargers that pose a fire risk.

Electrical Safety First chief executive Lesley Rudd said: “Football, and other global sporting events, are experiencing advertising blitzes by major online marketplaces across the globe, and at a time when millions of people are struggling with finances, we understand how appealing low-cost deals will be.

“But it’s important for fans to remember that they risk scoring an own goal if the deal they bag turns out to be a substandard or dangerous product.

“Substandard electronics can have serious consequences for your safety and an innocent purchase could put you and your family at risk.”

The charity is urging the next government to introduce new laws for online marketplace giants to ensure they are legally obligated to take reasonable steps to ensure goods on their sites are safe.

Current legislation does not recognise online marketplaces as retailers or actors in the consumer supply chain, exempting them from essential rules that traditional retailers must follow.

Ms Rudd added: “Online marketplaces are not legally responsible for ensuring safe products for sale. Because of this, their sites can be a minefield for substandard goods sold by third parties.

“The best way to avoid scoring an own goal is to stick to a reputable high street retailer where you can shop in confidence, reassured the product you’re buying is safe.”

How to avoid an own goal and bring home a safe deal when shopping online:

The charity makes the following suggestions to consumers selecting electronics from online marketplaces:

Pay attention to the plug

If a product is listed with a foreign plug and travel adaptor, do not buy it.

It is likely the seller has not complied with the standards for that product to be sold to UK consumers. If the plug looks oddly shaped or looks clover-like in shape, don’t buy it.Do not buy on price alone – not all bargains are worth it

Make sure you do your homework if you decide to buy products below high street retail prices.

Don’t just take the seller’s word for it – or the reviewers

Beware of a product with solely glowing reviews, especially if the reviewers are not verified.

Some sites cross-reference user reviews with their buyer database and label those people as “verified purchasers”.

Know where you are buying from

Make sure you know where the supplier is based – a “co.uk” URL doesn’t guarantee the website is UK-based.

If there is no address supplied, or there is just a PO Box, be wary; many dodgy electrical goods are manufactured overseas.

They may not be safety tested and could be produced as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Beware of words qualifying an item’s authenticity

If the seller claims the product is “genuine”, “CE certified” or “approved” double check the source.

Most reputable retailers do not need to sell their products like this.

Spot the lock to pay safely

Look for websites that allow you to pay safely – these have a padlock symbol in the address bar of the website you are visiting.

The St George’s flag (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

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