COVID Concerns Push Consumers Away From High Street And Onto Online Marketplaces Risking Dangerous Gifts This Christmas

17 November 2020

Safety Charity issues warning as, with local lockdown restrictions in place, almost 3 in 5 (58%) Brits plan to shop on online marketplaces for Christmas.

UK consumers are swapping one safety risk for another as COVID-19 concerns move them away from the high street and onto online marketplaces where dangerous electrical products that present a serious fire risk lurk, a Charity is warning.  

As this year’s Electrical Fire Safety Week approaches (23rd-29th November), new research from consumer safety Charity Electrical Safety First reveals millions more UK consumers than usual will turn to online marketplaces for this Christmas due to COVID-19 fears.

The survey suggests 58% of Brits will be shopping on online marketplaces for Christmas this year, with over half (53%) of them saying they’ll be using these sites more than in previous years. These numbers may increase even more if current lockdowns and restrictions are extended.[i]

The majority (59%) of respondents who are planning to shop on online marketplaces say they’re doing so because they believe these websites to be a safer way of shopping than going to the High Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.[ii] However, Electrical Safety First is concerned consumers are simply replacing one risk with another, as multiple investigations from the Charity have unearthed dangerous electrical products for sale via third parties on these sites.[iii]

1 in 5 (20%) of those planning to do Christmas shopping this year surveyed, intend to buy electrical products to give as gifts.[iv] 57% of these respondents are planning to buy electrical gifts from online marketplaces – and out of those, more than 9 out of 10 (92%) say they’re confident that these products will be safe to buy from these outlets.[v] This confidence is not supported by Electrical Safety First investigations which have repeatedly found unsafe electricals for sale on sites including Amazon Marketplace, eBay and

The Charity is urging consumers to reduce their chances of buying dangerous electricals by sticking to the stores or websites of known manufacturers and retailers such as those found on the high street. Repeated calls for online marketplaces to take responsibility for the products sold on their websites has not yielded significant action, so Electrical Safety First has proposed legislation  which would legally require them to do so. Until this legislation is passed, though, consumers are urged to steer clear of buying from third party sellers on these platforms.

Those who support the legislation can find out more and sign the petition on the Electrical Safety First website to demand action.

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First commented: “With COVID-19 at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment, it is understandable that many consumers are planning to shop online for Christmas gifts to avoid the high street this year. But we would urge people purchasing electrical products, to use the stores or websites of known manufacturers and retailers such as those found on the high street, rather than resorting to third party sellers on online marketplaces. Our investigations have found some extremely dangerous items for sale on these platforms and substandard or counterfeit products are often very difficult to spot to the untrained eye. We have proposed legislation which, if passed, would force online marketplaces to take responsibility for the safety of the goods sold on them and allow consumers to shop in good faith but until that happens we urge caution.”

David MacKenzie, Chartered Trading Standards Institute Lead Officer for E-Commerce, said: “COVID-19 has accelerated an existing trend towards more and more online shopping by UK consumers. The internet can provide buyers with great opportunities in terms of choice and convenience. However, at the same time, they must be wary and only buy from reliable sources to ensure quality and safety. Sub-standard electrical products can be hazardous, and Trading Standards advice to shoppers is to do their homework before buying; check a trader out online and read any reviews. If you’re not fully satisfied, don’t buy from them. And don’t rule out the option of buying from a trusted local “bricks and mortar” shop, which can often provide extra assurance and customer service.”

Case study - Mother-of-two’s lucky escape: 

40-year-old, mother-of-two, Rachel Kent from Rhuddlan, North Wales knows first-hand the devastating impact an electrical fire can have after a fire believed to have been caused by a laptop charger purchased online broke out in her home:

“It was about 10.30am at night, I was at home in my kitchen about to take my two dogs for a walk. My laptop was on a hard table, charging for a few hours. I heard a very loud crackle and ‘bang’ from the laptop. Panicking, I fled into the garden, taking my dogs with me and looked in horror to see the laptop go ‘bang’ again and catch fire, spreading along the table.

I was terrified by what was happening and called 999 and North Wales FRS crews arrived incredibly quickly and extinguished the fire, saving many of my possessions despite some serious damage to the table and the wall. Luckily, my two kids were staying at their grandmother’s that night but if they’d been in the house at the time the fire would have been between them and myself which is absolutely horrible to think about. My pet dogs also had a lucky escape, being down in the kitchen with me at the time.

I was told it was the battery of the laptop that was at fault. I’d bought the replacement battery from Amazon through a third party seller after the original battery had died. The experience has taught me not to buy electrical products from online marketplaces again – I’ll be sticking to reputable retailers. I hope others will join me in signing Electrical Safety First’s petition to better regulate marketplaces so others don’t have to go through similar experiences with even worse consequences”.

Notes to editors:

  • 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
  • Consumer research was conducted via the survey group, Censuswide with a sample of 3,002 adults across the UK, nationally representative of the general population. Research was conducted in the field between 26.10.2020 to 29.10.2020

For more information please contact:

Tom Davies T: 07866702069 E:

[i] Research commissioned by Electrical Safety First and conducted by Censuswide surveying 3,002 adults in the UK, nationally representative of the population, found that 57.9% of respondents answered ‘Online from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay’ to the question ‘Due to restrictions in place due to Covid-19, where do you plan to do your Christmas shopping this year? (Please tick all that apply)’; of those who responded in this way, 52.7% answered ‘More’ to the question ‘Will you be using online marketplaces more or less this year compared to your usual Christmas shopping?’

[ii] Above research found that 59.1% of respondents who plan to do their Christmas shopping online from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay answered ‘It's a safer way of shopping than going out to the High Street during the Covid-19 pandemic’ to the question ‘ Why will you be purchasing from online marketplaces for Christmas shopping this year? (Tick all that apply)’

[iii] For more on Electrical Safety First’s work on online marketplaces, visit

[iv] Above research found that 19.7% of respondents who are planning to do Christmas shopping this year answered ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Are you planning to buy any electrical products to give as gifts this Christmas?’

[v] Above research found that 57% of respondents who are planning to buy electrical products to give as gifts this Christmas answered ‘Online from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay’ to the question ‘Where will you purchase these electrical gifts this Christmas?’; 92% of respondents who will purchase electrical gifts online from marketplaces answered ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Are you confident that the electrical products you buy from online marketplaces are safe?’