Every year around 1. 8 million* chargers are purchased online, with most homes using several at once. Yet according to a new report from the Electrical Safety Council (ESC), these seemingly mundane products are putting Scottish lives at risk on a daily basis.
Plug-in chargers are used for anything from handheld games consoles and iPods, to laptops and mobile phones.
The ESC – the UK’s leading electrical safety charity - commissioned an independent laboratory to carry out safety and performance testing on a selection of chargers purchased from well-known online trading and auction sites.
The (literally) shocking results revealed a catalogue of faults, with none of the chargers tested meeting the main safety objectives required by law. All of the chargers were capable of causing an electric shock or fire for a variety of reasons – from the wrong size pins to insufficient insulation and separation between the live parts of the charger. Simply by being plugged in and used as intended, the chargers became a safety risk.
The ESC is now preparing to launch a new campaign to increase awareness of the dangers and pitfalls of purchasing unsafe electrical goods on the internet. The charity plans to produce a consumer guide to internet buying, providing tips and advice to help keep online purchasers safe.
A motion tabled to the Scottish Parliament by South of Scotland MSP and Health Committee Convener Christine Grahame welcomed the safety campaign.
“As internet shopping increases, the issue of buying potentially dangerous electrical goods online really needs to be highlighted. The fact that none of the chargers tested independently by the Electrical Safety Council met the current UK safety standards is surprising and worrying. I welcome the charity’s plans for a wider campaign to raise awareness among Scots in the run-up to Christmas,” she said.
Stephen Curtler, the ESC’s Product Safety Manager, explained: “Although we’ve only tested a tiny sample of chargers available on the market at this time, we are very concerned that many thousands of lives in the UK, particularly young lives, are being put at risk whenever cheap unsafe chargers are used. “It can be difficult to spot unsafe chargers but alarm bells should certainly be ringing if, for example, a cheap charger bought on the internet has plug pins which look irregular or loose, or don’t fit easily into the socket. People should also look out for the CE mark – the manufacturer’s declaration that the product is safe – although these can also be faked and are not a guarantee of safety.
“Consumers need to be aware of their rights when buying online and return any equipment they are not happy with. Anyone who thinks they have purchased an unsafe charger should contact their local authority trading standards office, who will investigate. We would also like to hear from anyone who has general concerns regarding the safety of chargers via firstname.lastname@example.org” he said.
*Research carried out by Buckinghamshire Trading Standards – September 2008
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