Heater sold on eBay is a ‘risk to life’ as Brits battle cost of living

Electric blender bought online billows with smoke

More than 50 electrical products being sold online, including a heater branded a “risk to life”, fail to meet safety standards according to campaigners from Electrical Safety First (ESF). The charity says in January 2023 it tested 58 electrical goods being sold on online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon Marketplace among others.

After assessing the everyday products, ESF found that every single one of them was “unsuitable for sale to the public and did not meet necessary UK safety standards”.

One of the products, described by the group as “one of the most dangerous products” they surveyed, was a 240-volt electric heater.

According to ESF: “A portable heater purchased via eBay proved to be one of the most dangerous products uncovered by the charity. With 240 volts running through a heating element easily exposed or accessible through an insecure cover, posing a risk to life.”

Beauty and food processing products were also deemed unfit for use.

ESF test ran one “3200W food blender”, also listed on eBay, which after a short period of use began to dangerously malfunction.

The charity said: “Even making a morning smoothie could end in disaster, with one kitchen blender available through an online marketplace fitted with a defective motor which began to overheat and pour with smoke less than a minute after being switched on.”

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of ESF, said: “With so many people feeling the squeeze, we’re concerned that more shoppers than ever could be exposing themselves to risk from supposed bargains found on online marketplaces.

“These products can come at a dangerous cost. People are buying everyday products like hair dryers and phone chargers, online without knowing the hazards they present.

“Third-party sellers are well aware of consumers’ desire to save money right now, so they are flooding the UK with cheap, poor-quality electricals through online marketplaces.

“We’re even seeing them invest in advertising to drive sales, despite their products putting consumers at serious risk.

“That’s why the Government must act urgently to protect people by introducing legislation that forces online marketplaces to take reasonable steps to ensure the products they sell on their platforms are safe.”

Other worrying electronic items the charity tested included a “‘water-proof’ extension lead with no water-proof capabilities”, that had already been recalled by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) but that nevertheless was on sale on Amazon Marketplace.

“A 5-in-1 hair styler [that] had an unsafe plug without a fuse and presents a significant fire risk” was another one of the products reviewed. The styler, which was purchased from Amazon Marketplace came apart “easily without the need for a tool, exposing live parts and presenting a shock risk”, ESF said.

An eBay spokesperson said: “We take a proactive approach to keeping our users safe, it’s our top priority. We have removed the items that Electrical Safety First flagged to us, and alerted buyers who purchased one of the items within the last 90 days.

“We use block filter algorithms which aim to prevent unsafe products from being listed. These filters blocked 4.8million listings in 2022. If an unsafe product does make it on to site, we swiftly remove it and provide product safety education to the sellers to prevent relisting.

“We also work closely with stakeholders and regulators to keep our platform safe. Our Regulatory Portal enables authorities from around the world to report listings of unsafe products, such as those flagged by ESF, for swift removal.”

An Amazon spokesperson said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon and we require all products in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

“We have removed these products while we investigate.

“If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

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