The Risks of Buying Cheap Electricals Online

a laptop, ipone with headphones plugged in and camera placed on a wooden desk

Some of us are guilty of buying cheap electrical appliances online, as it can seem nonsensical to spend up to £20 on a phone charger when you can buy a similar one online for less than the price of a coffee.

Quite rightly, most of us assume that any electrical product we buy in the UK is completely safe, with many laws and regulations surrounding the safety of these electricals. So you may be surprised to hear that buying cheap electricals can be extremely dangerous.

Counterfeit cheap electricals commonly include phone chargers, extension leads, e-cigarettes, adaptors as well as small kitchen and beauty appliances.

In this article, we take a look at some of the potential dangers surrounding buying cheap electricals online.

The reality of buying cheap appliances

According to Chartered Trading Standards Institute, 99% of counterfeit Apple chargers bought online fail a basic safety test.  A recent study found that after testing 400 counterfeit Apple chargers, only three of them passed the basic safety test.

Realistically, if you find a ‘legitimate’ and ‘brand-new’ appliance online for a small fraction of the price of an original, it’s likely to be a counterfeit. Unfortunately, counterfeit electricals may save you a few pennies, but they could cost you your life, home or even the lives of your loved ones.

However, it can sometimes be impossible to identify counterfeit electricals, with some online sellers misleading shoppers by using images from official product sites and listing the product price similar to the official retail price to avoid any suspicion.

With many of these counterfeit sellers operating on online buying and selling platforms, they become accessible to virtually anyone using the internet. It’s a worrying thought that these counterfeit electricals have made their way into millions of homes up and down the UK.

According to Electrical Safety First, over half of house fires are caused by electricity and around nine out of ten electrical fires are caused by electrical products. This is a concerning statistic, with the fake electrical goods market in the UK currently worth around £1.3 bn.

The British Standard Kitemark

To distinguish a dangerous electrical item from a BSI (British Standards Institution) approved electrical item, you’ll often see a service quality trademark, which is also known as a ‘Kitemark’. A Kitemark allows you to tell if a product is safe for consumer use and is an internationally recognised quality mark.

You might be thinking that spotting a counterfeit electrical product is simple, as the British Standards mark would be missing or stamped incorrectly. Unfortunately, the British Standard mark is often very easily forged, so solely relying on this as an indicator is not enough.

Safety advice that you should follow…

In order to safely purchase electrical products online, there are some steps you can follow to ensure that you avoid counterfeit products as best as possible. These steps include:

Purchase from sellers within the UK

It’s always worth remembering that electrical items outside the UK have undergone different safety tests than we have in the UK, so most electrical items are unlikely to conform with British Safety Standards. 

If buying online, try to find out of the products are shipped directly from the UK or if they are from external countries, as this can be a true indicator if an electrical item is safe to use.

PAT testing

The safest way to protect yourself, your home or business from counterfeit electrical products or general electrical faults is with PAT testing. Also known as Portable Appliance Testing, PAT testing is the inspection and testing of electrical appliances and equipment to ensure it is safe for use in a commercial (or domestic) environment. 

The purpose of PAT Testing is to prevent potential electrical accidents in the workplace and at home. According to the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, any electrical equipment present in a domestic or commercial environment should be PAT tested. Testing is one of the most reliable ways of identifying counterfeit products, and should never be overlooked.

Once your electrical appliances have been PAT tested and passed the inspection procedure, they will be labelled with a ‘passed’ sticker. This explains the ID of your inspection, the test date, who the appliance was tested by and also when the next PAT testing is due.

At Banner Fire, we offer electrical PAT testing to many domestic and commercial premises around the UK, which is why we are tried and trusted by thousands of people.

Buying from a reputable retailer

When shopping for electrical products, your safest bet is to opt for high street retailers or branded supermarkets. This is usually safer due to these companies having contracts with suppliers of large companies who produce original electricals, therefore would need to undergo strict testing and quality controls.

Check for branding

Some brands will have unique markings on their products, including logos, serial numbers or stamps. If you think the branding on your electrical item looks different or incorrect, there is a high chance that it’s a counterfeit.

When purchasing Apple chargers, it’s a well-known fact that many chargers purchased online are counterfeit and tend to stop working after several weeks/months of use. Whilst it can be difficult to identify counterfeit chargers, it’s critical to carry out essential checks before using, as there have been some cases around the UK of counterfeit chargers blowing up or starting fires.

Keeping Your Business and Home Safe

However big or small your business, Banner Fire and Security is on hand to supply and maintain your fire extinguishers at extremely competitive rates. Safeguarding your business premises can be the difference between life and death, so it’s important to remain vigilant and aware of your fire safety procedures.

All it takes is a little extra care and more focus to completely safeguard your office and your employees from the dangers of fire.

Protect your business the right way and fire up a conversation with us today. Give us a call on 01902 700620 to see how we can help you protect your business.