What to be aware of with substandard electrical goods

Substandard Electrical GoodsThere has been lots of press activity in the last year or so about dangerous electrical goods. Electrical Safety First have been campaigning against dangerous electrical items and they are delighted that the Government has acknowledged their campaign which has gained extra media exposure recently with stories such as tumble-dryers catching fire and hoverboards exploding.

There are two main issues – firstly, manufacturers try to keep their costs as low as possible which can lead to substandard goods being sold. Secondly, there is a massive market now for counterfeit goods. The ease of online shopping as well as social media have led to a 15% increase in the sales of fake items in 2014 – 2015 alone.

Substandard Items

Supply chains have become increasingly complex which means that once a manufacturer has become aware that an item is substandard, it is very difficult to sort out. Electrical Safety First are calling for the product recall process to be tightened as recalls currently only have a 10 to 20% success rate which means that millions of homes could contain potentially lethal products.

The first thing you can do to protect yourself is to register your product. This means that if the manufacturer identifies a problem with your product they know how to get hold of you. If you would like to check any products that you already own, there is a product checker here http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/.

Counterfeit Items

Fake items often look the same as the real thing to the untrained eye so people often don’t think twice about buying them if it means saving some money. However, the reason they are so cheap is usually because they contain ‘shortcuts’ such as using cheaper, substandard parts or sometimes they are missing a vital component completely. As well as affecting the reliability of the product, this can have serious implications to the safety of the item. Selling counterfeits is illegal so the person selling them could be prosecuted by Trading Standards but if the trader is based outside the EU then this is difficult.

If you are buying electrical goods online, there are a few things you can check:

• Does the trader look reputable? Is there a full name and address on their website and are they UK based?
• If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t buy goods that are much lower than the normal selling price unless you are absolutely sure about the seller.
• Do your homework. Put the name of the seller into your internet search engine and check to see if there are any complaints about them etc.
• Be wary of buying electrical goods from outside the UK.
• Check whether the seller is licenced by the manufacturer or make sure you use a website that only sells genuine items via a shopping directory such as this one https://www.brand-i.org/.
• Check the product when it arrives. The instructions should be in English, it should have a UK 3 pin plug and the voltage should be 230V, 50 Hz (UK domestic voltage). The item should also show the CE mark.
• Keep records of anything you order.
• If the item costs more than £100, use a credit card for additional protection.

Most importantly, if you are at all unsure about the item, DON’T USE IT!

You can also check if your product has a safety recall here:

Widget from Electrical Safety First