Making a Black Friday list? Check it twice, advises Electrical Safety First

17 November 2016

Watch out for fake and substandard goods in run up to Christmas

  • One in six[i] British consumers admit that they have purchased a fake electrical product for someone as a Christmas gift
  • Majority[ii] of UK consumers have difficulty telling a fake electrical item from a genuine one
  • Electrical Safety First reminds shoppers that fake electrical items are at risk of exploding, risking serious injury or property damage

A new investigation carried out by Electrical Safety First reveals that an estimated nine million UK consumers[iii] have purchased a fake electrical product as a Christmas gift in the past. As this Black Friday’s retail bonanza marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, the Charity is reminding people to ‘spot the fake’ when looking to buy electrical items.

The research proves that it’s not always easy for people to spot a fake. When asked to identify fake and genuine electrical products from images, the majority of UK consumers had difficulty telling them apart. Three quarters of consumers[iv] were unable to identify genuine GHD hair straighteners and three in five[v] could not spot a fake Apple charger. Over half[vi] of consumers said that they would be likely to buy a product that was described as “genuine,” “real” or “authentic”.

Looking at online shoppers specifically, the research showed that today’s UK consumers are more likely to use online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay than buy directly from retailers’ websites[vii]. One in five[viii] of these shoppers admit to spending absolutely no time assessing whether an electrical item is genuine and over half[ix] presume that electrical items for sale online are genuine.

Additionally, some people are knowingly buying fake electrical items. One in six[x] consumers say they would consider buying a product they suspected was fake if it was cheaper than the original. Ten per cent said that they would buy a suspected fake if under pressure to buy it by a certain date or if it was difficult to find due to high demand.

Reflecting on these findings, Emma Drackford, Head of Communications at Electrical Safety First, said: 

“Ahead of Black Friday’s shopping frenzy, we’re reminding consumers that among the genuine electrical items on special offer, there are dangerous fake electrical products to look out for. Our research shows that many of us could be more likely to buy a fake if we’re under pressure to buy by a certain date or in a race to get the cheapest deal. In that rush, it’s easy to mistake a fake for a real product. We’re urging people to learn how to ‘spot the fake’ – if you’re not sure our advice is to buy from an official online retailer. When you buy a fake, at best you’re being swindled but at worst you could be putting your life at risk.”

Electrical Safety First examined a random selection of popular electrical accessories such as chargers, power banks and adaptors, purchased through online marketplaces. The investigation revealed that while many items appear to be genuine on the product page and even in appearance; on internal examination, many were substandard and even dangerous. Small fake internal components in electrical items are at risk of exploding, leaving consumers open to serious injury or property damage.

One person who knows how easy it is to be fooled into buying a fake product is Lucy Dibdin. Lucy purchased a Herstyler hair straightener an online marketplace three years ago for a fraction of the advertised price in her local shopping centre. She had no issues with the item until a few weeks ago, when she plugged it in and heard a strange crackling noise.

“It never occurred to me to check if it was genuine, as I presumed everything on Amazon was,” she said. “I picked it up but dropped it immediately when flames erupted from both sides. Luckily didn’t injure myself or get electrocuted but I was left with a tingling in my arm for about 20 minutes. Since this terrifying experience, I make sure I only buy electrical products from trusted retailers. Given what I know now I strongly expect the product was a fake.  I would not buy online again."  

Electrical Safety First is warning all shoppers to be aware of the risks that accompany fake or substandard electrical products. Visit to learn about how to spot a fake electrical product. 


For more information please contact: 

Muireann Kirby T:  020 3463 5105 E:

Christina Copp T: 020 3463 5129 E:

Editors’ Notes

  • Electrical Safety First is a UK Charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity. More information can be found at
  • All research results unless otherwise stated are from Censuswide. Total sample size was 2007 adults and fieldwork took place from 4th to 7th November 2016. Surveys were conducted across the United Kingdom and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

Spot The Fake Checklist

Before you buy, check this list:

  • Buy electrical products from reputable retailers. This way you can be assured you’re buying the real thing as some fake products can be hard to identify
  • Check prices and shop around! Check online shops and if possible, visit the high street. If a bargain looks too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Check that the voltage is 230-240V, 50Hz and that they are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger
  • Look for the padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in your payment details.
  • Beware of glowing reviews, especially if the reviewers aren’t verified. Some sites cross-reference user reviews with their buyer database and label those people as "verified purchasers"  
  • Beware of words qualifying an item’s authenticity. If the seller claims the product is ‘genuine’, ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ double check the source. Most reputable retailers don’t need to sell their products like this.
  • Look for the seller’s contact details, for online marketplaces. Look for a full address and not just a PO Box number.
  • For websites, check the address - not all websites with a address are based in the UK
  • Read product guarantees, terms and conditions, and returns policies before you buy

For more information on how to spot a fake, including after you’ve bought it, visit