Online retailers ‘not doing enough to curb fake electrical devices’

An investigation by UK charity Electrical Safety First suggests Amazon, eBay and Fruugo have a big counterfeit problem – and their procedures to prevent sellers posting fake listings needs an overhaul.

The charity says one in three UK residents has purchased a counterfeit online thinking it was genuine, which is a whopping 18m people, with younger consumers – and particularly millennials – the most at risk with around half mistakenly purchasing a knock-off.

Furthermore, test purchases by EFS revealed dangerous items on sale at all three online retailers – including tumble dryers, Kodi boxes, kettles, food processors, travel adaptors, and hair straighteners – that had “frightening safety flaws… including a serious lack of protection from electric shock and the potential to cause a fire.”

“It’s no wonder that one in seven Brits admit that they have experienced loss or serious damage caused by an electrical item purchased from an e-commerce website,” it says in a blog post. Some of the items discovered on sale included products on EFS’ recall list.

That wasn’t the end of the probe. EFS also tested how easy it was to set up shop on e-commerce sites – calling itself transparently worrying names including Dodgy Electricals Ltd and Dangerous Electrical Ltd – and was able to become successfully verified using a fake name, passport number and date of birth to create the profile on all three platforms.

“In the age of artificial intelligence and strict online regulations, it’s reasonable to expect these websites to have the skills and technology required to weed out the dodgy sellers,” writes EFS’ Jenna Haldane, who asks whether there are simply too many listings on their websites to keep track of.

“We’re calling on these sites to protect their customers, and take steps to regulate the sale of fake and unsafe products,” she adds.

This isn’t the first time the charity has raised concerns about the issue of counterfeit goods sold online.

Last December, EFS published a report revealing that the majority of counterfeit or lookalike Apple chargers sold online have the potential to deliver lethal electric shock and/or cause a fire. It tested 50 chargers purchased in the UK and 98 per cent failed one or more safety tests.

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