The safe shopper's guide
When shopping for electrical goods, everybody loves a bargain. But the product could be a cheap copy, of poor quality, or made to look like a well-known brand. Or it may be second hand, with damage that can make it unsafe. If the product does turn out to be fake these goods are, at best, a waste of money. At worst, they could result in a house fire, severe injury or even the death of a loved one.
The last few years have seen an increase in the number of counterfeit and sub-standard electrical products on the market. Hair styling products, mobile phone chargers and electronic games are among the top electrical fakes. Counterfeit electrical goods almost always contain incorrect or faulty parts that can overheat or break just days after purchase, increasing the risk of fire or electric shock.
The increase in the popularity of online shopping makes it even easier for dodgy goods to slip through the net.
The best way to protect yourself from substandard and counterfeit goods is to buy your electrical products from reputable retailers, on the high street or via their websites. However, there are precautions you can take when buying from less well known sellers.
Shopping Online – follow our top ten tips
- Check the voltage of products is 230V, 50Hz (the UIK’s usual domestic voltage) and that they are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger
- Look for the seller’s contact details. Make sure there is a full address and not just a PO Box number. Not all websites with a .co.uk address are based in the UK
- Avoid buying second-hand products, especially if the guarantee or warranty has run out. You don’t know what condition it’s in
- Look for websites that allow you to pay safely – these have a padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in your payment details
- Do a price check and, if you have time, visit the high street too. If a bargain looks too good to be true, the chances are it probably is
- Use online review websites to find out what people are saying about products and sellers
- Read the product guarantees, sellers’ terms and conditions, returns policies and privacy statements
- Check that the site is a member of an online retail accrediting body, such as ISIS, which means they have signed up to certain service standards
- If you use your credit card to spend £100 or more on an item, you can hold both the trader and credit card company liable if something goes wrong with the sale
- Keep records of anything you order
If you suspect a product is dangerous to use, or it if it is a fake copy of a well-known brand, it is illegal. Contact your local trading standards office or Citizens Advice straight away. If you have any suspicions about a product’s safety, or if you think it’s a fake, don’t use it.
Download our Safe Shopper’s Guide to help you stay safe when shopping online, and on the High Street.