Highly dangerous e-bike chargers have been found for sale via some of the most popular online marketplaces, an investigation has uncovered.
A new investigation by consumer safety charity Electrical Safety First identified mains chargers designed to charge e-bike batteries that could start devastating fires.
Nearly 60 listings were found by the charity across Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Wish.com and AliExpress, all of which fell well below the necessary safety standards for sale to UK consumers. The listed products were predominantly advertised as e-bike chargers, whilst others were for multiple use, designed to charge the batteries of e-scooters or hoverboards.
The charging devices, advertised as accessories for e-bikes to power up lithium-ion batteries, all failed to meet the necessary standard for UK plugs, with many appearing to have no fuse, sheading serious doubt as to the overall safety of the product, including the quality and safety of internal components.
Plugs without a fuse have no means of cutting out in the event of a fault in the supply lead, leaving the consumer exposed to a serious risk of fire.
The charity is particularly concerned with the findings of its latest investigation due to the risk associated with substandard charging devices powering lithium-ion batteries. In the event of a fire occurring from the charger, its close proximity to the e-bike battery could cause a ferocious and devastating fire in the home if the battery is then ignited.
Other defects with the charging devices included dimension issues with the plug. UK plugs must meet minimum dimension requirements to prevent electric shock. The charging devices found by Electrical Safety First were all visibly small in size, leaving the user exposed to electric shock if their fingers were to come into contact with the live plug pins.
An incorrect plug is a sign that the charger has not been adequately tested to the necessary safety standards and therefore there is an increased risk of further hidden dangers.
Some listings featuring non-UK plugs also came with lithium-ion batteries.
Martyn Allen, Technical Director of Electrical Safety First, commented: “By the very nature of the batteries these dangerous charging devices are powering, it is a potential disaster waiting to happen. The process of charging e-bike batteries must be done with compatible and compliant chargers. These chargers we have identified for sale all pose an increased risk of fire and electric shock and should never have been available for sale to UK shoppers in the first instance. Given the frightening nature of lithium-ion battery fires, it is essential the charging equipment doesn’t pose any unnecessary risk to the battery or user.
“The lack of vital regulation needed to ensure online marketplaces are responsible for the safety of goods sold via their platforms is contributing significantly to dangerous products entering people’s homes. The Government must bring forward urgent laws to finally end this scandal.”
On contacting the Marketplaces investigated, all removed or blocked the listings highlighted to them by Electrical Safety First. One marketplace informed the charity it had subsequently conducted a deep dive based on the intelligence provided by the charity on its platform resulting in the removal of hundreds more listings.
Above: A dangerous charger advertised for electric bikes found via an online marketplace
The findings come after a recent warning from the London Fire Brigade following a spate of ferocious e-bike fires across the Capital linked to both DIY conversion kits as well as incompatible chargers.
Images of one e-bike fire attended by the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service shows the devastation to a property following an e-bike that caught fire, causing severe damage,.
Above picture credit: Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service
Earlier this month a blaze under railway arches in Southwark was speculated to have been linked to an electric bike, resulting in 70 fire fighters attending the scene and 10 fire engines.
Right of replies
An eBay spokesperson said:
“We take product safety extremely seriously, and welcome the information provided to us by Electrical Safety First about these products. In addition to our block filter algorithms and security teams monitoring the site, we work closely with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure eBay remains free of unsafe products.
“In this instance, our close working relationship with ESF and the Trading Standards team at Kensington & Chelsea Council enabled the swift removal of these products.”
An AliExpress spokesperson said:
“AliExpress takes product safety very seriously and we have strict guidelines in place to ensure a safe shopping environment. We thank Electrical Safety First for bringing these listings to our attention, we have removed the non-compliant items highlighted by their investigation.
“As a third-party marketplace, AliExpress does not take possession of the goods in transactions, we have policies in place that all sellers must comply with.”
A Wish spokesperson said:
"All of our merchants must comply with local laws whenever selling on our platform, as noted in Wish’s Merchant Terms of Service and Wish Policies. After being informed that a number of advertised product images do not appear to meet UK legal standards, we've reached out to the merchants who sell the products in question, and have requested additional compliance documentation and higher resolution product imagery.
"Out of an abundance of caution, and in accordance with our policies, we are temporarily blocking these product listings from the EU and UK markets, pending the final outcome of the merchant-investigation. Once adequate documentation/response is received, we will review and consider whether further action is needed."
An Amazon spokesperson said:
“Safety is important to Amazon and we want customers to shop with confidence on our stores. We have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns. When appropriate, we remove a product from the store, reach out to sellers, manufacturers, and government agencies for additional information, or take other actions. If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action. We have removed these products from sale while we investigate.”
Notes to editor:
Electrical Safety First is a charity dedicated to reducing death and injury caused by electricity in the home.
- The Charity looked at mains plug in charging devices advertised for use with e-bikes/e-scooters or other e-battery operated transport devices. All products highlighted to the online marketplaces were deemed to be so visually substandard from the images used to advertise them alone, that no test purchasing was necessary. The charity did not look at batteries.
- The images used to illustrate lithium-ion battery fires in the above press release are in no way linked to the specific charging devices found for sale via the online marketplaces mentioned within this investigation.
The number of substandard chargers found on each marketplace can be found below:
Amazon Marketplace: 13 listings
eBay: 21 listings
Wish.com: 13 listings
AliExpress: 12 listings