UK insurer links rising electrical fault fires to counterfeits

House fires caused by electrical faults have risen by 35 per cent in the last year and now account for more than a quarter if all fire claims in the UK.

Co-operative Insurance - which has compiled the figures from its own claims records - says there has been a "surge in fire claims caused by electrical faults," making this category the second most common cause after accidental ignition and ahead of fire spreading from another property.

Jonathan Guy, head of claims at Co-op Insurance, said the increase has "a correlation to counterfeit phone chargers," which are being encountered with increasing frequency in the marketplace. An estimated 1.8m mobile phone chargers are bought online in the UK each year.

"Consumers need to be careful that they purchase official chargers, as counterfeit ones are often made with poor quality components that fail to meet UK safety regulations." Use of the items can lead to "not only electrocution and burns but serious house fires, with tragic circumstances," he added.

80 in every 100,000 households will suffer from a fire in any given year according to Co-op data, with the average claim for fire damage worth £14,000 ($18,660).

“Fires in homes are among the most costly claims to deal with, as in addition to cosmetic repairs, structural damage to the property may also need to be fixed," notes Guy.

"If your home becomes uninhabitable as a result of the fire, you may require alternative accommodation, therefore it is important to speak to your insurer and make sure you have the right level of cover in place."

The insurer has the following recommendations for reducing fire risks in the home:

  • Don’t leave appliances charging unsupervised for long periods of time

  • Use official/original chargers and electrical cables

  • Purchase electrical items from a reputable source and check it has a British or European safety mark when buying it

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the device

  • Don’t charge a battery that looks like it could have been damaged or dropped

  • Don’t cover items when you are charging them as they emit heat

  • Don’t leave large household appliances e.g. washing machines or tumble dryers on when you leave the house or overnight

  • Don’t overload extension cables with multiple appliances, it’s advised to use one plug per socket

  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm fitted in the home and regularly check it to make sure it works.

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