Earlier this month, journalists and technophiles descended on Las Vegas for Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, to check out all the latest gadgets and gizmos. With quirky devices sat alongside creative triumphs, there was something for everyone.
Yet looking at the nascent 2020 recall data available, it’s worth sounding a note of caution about how users power their new toys. Although the new year has barely begun, the electrical recalls market is already taking on a familiar shape with faulty chargers (7) being responsible for more than half of the 12 recalls issued so far.
Similarly, the reasons for recall have so far continued the trend from last year, with electric shock cited as a problem in all but one of this year’s cases. Last year, it accounted for more than three quarters of all recalls (77%). Outside of that, burns (1) and fire hazard (1) are the two other reasons given.
Finally, the flow of problematic products from China shows no sign of slowing down with 9 of the 12 recalled products originating there, including all 7 device chargers. Outside of that, 2 were of unknown origin and 1 came from Poland. There was a much greater spread in terms of notifying countries with Belgium leading the way (5), closely followed by the UK (4). Meanwhile Lithuania, Finland, and Poland each issued one alert.
Counting the cost of cheap chargers
Although we expected to find chargers near the top of the list of threats, it is still deeply concerning as they constitute an ongoing public hazard. Last year multiple fire departments across Europe were forced to issue warnings after being called out to fight blazes caused by poor quality parts and shoddy wiring.
In the last six months, such products have been responsible for serious injuries, yet remain for sale on a host of trusted online marketplaces. As a result, customers need to ensure that when they are buying a new adaptor or cable, they are purchasing from a reputable source and not simply trying to find the cheapest option available.
Unfortunately, given the ever-growing number of devices in use – including phones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, and wearables – it seems unlikely that the influx of substandard chargers is going to abate any time soon. On top of this, even reputable manufacturers can occasionally have a problem with production that prompts a recall. Either way, it is incumbent on manufacturers and retailers alike to ensure that when errors such as this occur, they are ready to take swift and decisive action to protect consumers.
Looking at the videos from CES, it sometimes feels like the future is already here. Buoyed by excitement and the January sales, consumers will be looking to snag the latest cool device. But with many of them continuing to opt for the cheaper end when it comes to charging cables, we can expect the rush of alerts around faulty chargers to continue accelerating for the foreseeable future.