Online Christmas shopping - with safety all wrapped up

28 November 2011

The Safe Shopper's Guide

Last year Cyber Monday, the UK’s busiest online shopping day of the year, saw reports of almost £1M spent in one minute by UK consumers and more of the same is expected this year.  With electrical gadgets and grooming products high on the nation’s gift list, the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) is issuing advice on buying electrical goods – especially those purchased online.

The ESC’s Product Safety Unit recently put a range of electrical health and beauty products to the test and found a number wanting in the safety department.  It has also undertaken regular testing of chargers – a necessary ‘add-on’ for most electrical gifts – many of which were found to be unsafe.

“Electrical grooming products are always popular Christmas presents but shoppers need to make sure that they are not only buying goods from reputable sellers but that the product and its accessories are safe”, explains Phil Buckle, Director General of the ESC. “In recent tests, we found only one item without any issues or faults”.

The ESC tested a total of 17 products, which included a selection of hair clippers, curling tongs, hair dryers, massage devices and hair straighteners.  Only one of these items (a hair clipper) passed the test programme with no concerns or defects noted.

Product problems ranged from loose live pins in a fitted plug, dangerous parts becoming accessible when the product was dropped, insufficient electrical insulation for protection against live parts and a lack of proper information in the manufacturers’ instructions.

Although some issues were fairly minor, such as imperfect user guides, others were much more serious. For example, one of the hair straighteners purchased was still dangerously hot – 115oC - five minutes after being unplugged.  This not only poses a fire risk but could also cause a serious burn or injury, particularly to children.

Over the last couple of years, the ESC has also tested a total of 74 chargers. Disturbingly, half of all those tested were unsafe - although the bulk of these were ‘unbranded’ chargers.
“In these financially troubled times everyone will be looking for a bargain”, adds Phil Buckle. “But if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!  If you are planning to buy electrical gifts online this year make sure you have a look at the ESC’s Safe Shopper’s Guide, which is downloadable from our website.  It provides straightforward and simple advice about online shopping and will help ensure you have a safe and happy festive season.”

Information from RAPEX, the EU’s official recall and rapid alert system, which lists unsafe products in Europe, shows the electrical goods most often reported as faulty or dangerous, are:
•    Electrical chargers
•    Adaptors, including those used for travel
•    Cable extensions and product leads
•    Hairdryers, tongs and clippers
•    Small kitchen appliances, such as toasters, kettles and irons.


Editor’s Notes
•    Mega Monday – also known as Cyber or Manic Monday – falls on the Monday closest to December, coinciding with the last pay day before Christmas, when consumers are looking to order gifts in time for delivery and wrapping.


For more information please contact Ben Stokes on 020 3463 5129 or at