A perfect storm will leave festive shoppers more at risk than ever of a shocking Christmas from dangerous goods online

08 December 2022

Experts are warning a perfect storm will leave cash -strapped Christmas shoppers trying to save money more vulnerable than ever to dangerous electricals sold online. 

As more people than ever are feeling the squeeze, festive shoppers risk inadvertently gifting their loved ones a shocking surprise as online marketplaces continue to go unregulated.   

An investigation by charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) has found more than nine in ten (93%) electrical products bought from UK online marketplaces do not meet safety standards when tested.  

The risks of people being hurt or house fires starting are real. One in ten adults report receiving a shock or seeing sparks from electrical items they have bought online. 

Electrical gifts and gadgets will be in high demand this Christmas. With budgets tighter than ever, it’s no surprise many are looking to save by shopping online for cheaper alternatives than buying recognised brands through conventional retailers.  

According to ESF research, nearly 60% of people say that the cost of living crisis has already impacted  their ability to make new purchases. Nearly four in ten (37%) say they’re buying more from online marketplaces as it is easier to find price comparisons. This means the risk of people giving or receiving dodgy electricals as presents is higher than at any time over the past few years. 

In the UK, online marketplaces are not required by law to ensure the safety of products offered on their sites in the same way as conventional retailers such as Curry’s, Argos or John Lewis. ESF is therefore warning Brits of the dangers of purchasing electrical gifts from third-party sellers on online marketplaces such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Wish.  

Most people are completely unaware of the dangers. ESF research shows that nearly three quarters (73%) do not know their purchases through online marketplaces are not protected by the same safety regulations as conventional retailers. It also found that seven in ten (69%) have purchased potentially unsafe electrical items via online marketplaces over the last two years. 

The research of 2,000 UK adults has been released to coincide with the launch of the charity’s new ‘Don’t be Electricked’ campaign, running during the Christmas shopping peak, when millions across the UK will gift buying online. 

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, commented: “This Christmas could see a perfect storm hit Britain’s hard-up festive shoppers as our attempts to save money could leave us vulnerable to dangerous goods. Online marketplaces are growing fast and with budgets so tight, cheaper electronic products can be a tempting alternative to pricier products from the big brands. However, most UK shoppers don’t realise these sites are under no obligation to ensure the safety of products or claims of their suppliers. The best gift the Government could give consumers this holiday season is ensuring the safety of online marketplaces so that their Christmas doesn’t go up in smoke.  

“We know poor quality or fake electrical products are increasingly being offered for sale on these sites. Whilst they might look like premium brands, they often contain cheap or faulty components that can overheat and catch fire, or deliver an electric shock.  It may be tempting to save a bit of money, but I’d ask people to consider how they’d feel if someone was electrocuted by a gift they gave them. We urge people to prioritise safety - don’t let the recipients of your gifts pay the ultimate price.” 

The ESF research found that seven in ten (70%) consumers would change their shopping habits once they understood the risks of shopping through online marketplaces, with 28% saying they will only buy from brands they recognise and trust. 

With nearly a third of Brits (32%) admitting to never checking the safety credentials of goods bought online, and 39% not confident about what to look for, ESF is calling on the Government to strengthen laws to better protect consumers. 

Rudd continued: “Consumers have embraced online marketplaces because they think they can make cost savings and find them convenient. As the cost of living pressures rise, we know people are likely to buy more electricals through online marketplaces. That’s why we’re urging the Government to take this issue seriously and protect people by introducing regulation to ensure online marketplaces comply with the same safety regulations that other UK retailers already do.” 

People who want to find out more about the risks of buying electricals online and what they can do to protect themselves can visit the ‘Don’t Be Electricked’ campaign page and follow the five-step guide to buying safely online: 

  1. Look for the seller’s contact details and be wary if there aren't any. Many cheap or fake electrical goods are imported, so may not have been properly safety tested. 
  1. Check the item has a proper three-point UK plug or charger fitted. 
  1. Don’t trust that the image displayed on the marketplace is a true representation of what you will receive. 
  1. Check reviews, but don’t rely on them. They can easily be faked. 
  1. If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Play it safer and buy from a conventional retailer. 


Notes to Editor 

Research of 2000 UK adults conducted between 15/11/22 - 18/11/22 by Opinium