Consumer choice publication Which? recently published the results of an investigation into the myriad of unknown brands being sold on reputable online outlets.
In short, the findings were damning. After testing dozens of chargers, travel adaptors and power banks purchased from sites including AliExpress, Amazon and eBay, more than three quarters did not pass electricity safety standards. Which? in turn ruled that when used in the home, they have the potential to be “deadly”.
The main risks associated with the items were fire and electrical shock. The majority of the 35 items tested did not meet the safety requirements of the Low Voltage Directive, which ensures that electrical equipment within certain voltage limits provides a high level of protection for European citizens.
The above risks are all reasons that we often see listed on Safety Gate, which includes a database of all electrical items recalled across Europe each week. USB chargers like those tested by Which? are the most recalled item of 2019 so far, with 18 alerts placed the first two quarters of the year.
In the past week alone, there have been two additional serious alerts placed – one for a USB charger with electric shock risk and another for an adaptor, which also had a risk of shock. When you compare this to the year before, when there was a total of 20 USB recalls across the entire year, it’s concerning to see they’re on the rise and show no sign of slowing.
This could be partly down to the fact that it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between authorised and unauthorised products, especially when purchasing from an online marketplace. Which? put this to the test with several lookalike Apple products – with eight out of eleven failing its safety test. When they took the chargers apart, permitted distances between components were too small, which could lead to an electric shock.
Although the price of chargers and adaptors from trusted suppliers and brands may be higher, you really can’t put a price on safety and peace of mind. You only have to search ‘charger fault’ and numerous articles from around the world instantly appear.
The fact is, too many shoddy products with serious risks are still making their way into consumers’ homes. Which? has taken its findings to the Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) to “ensure that online marketplaces take their responsibilities seriously and do not become an unpoliced wild west.”
Whether the investigation that brought these problematic items into the spotlight will have any effect on recall alerts remains to be seen, but we’ll be following it with interest.
If your company is concerned about any of the above, Sedgwick's team of experts is here to help.