Meta slammed for inaction over dangerous products

04 May 2023

Dangerous and substandard listings of electrical goods remained for sale via Meta’s Facebook Marketplace more than seven weeks after the company was alerted to their existence.  

Ten dangerous and substandard products were flagged to Meta by the consumer charity, Electrical Safety First on 28 February, as part of a wide scale investigation that identified dangerous goods for sale via five major online marketplaces.  

Amazon Marketplace, eBay, and AliExpress all responded to alerts from Electrical Safety First by swiftly removing the listings. However, goods that expose shoppers to risk of electric shock and fire  remain for sale via Meta’s Facebook Marketplace nearly eight weeks on.  

Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First, commented: “Meta has failed to act when presented with our evidence, leaving their shoppers exposed to avoidable harm. In doing so Meta has distinguished itself from other online platforms for all the wrong reasons.”  

The charity reviewed the status of the ten listings it flagged to Meta on 24th April. Four listings were no longer active, with links to the items leading to a page informing that the listing “may have expired or been sold,” yet six listings remained active.  

An e-scooter charger, with an illegal UK plug lacking a fuse, was one listing found to still be for sale online, alongside a pair of hair straighteners being sold with an EU plug and non-compliant UK travel adaptor, which was  considered unsafe to use and presented a risk of electric shock. 

Lesley Rudd added “The Government’s product safety review is more than a year late and this inaction from Meta is clear evidence that we cannot rely on the goodwill of online platforms to protect shoppers. The Government must urgently publish its review – in not doing so, it is allowing consumers to be put at risk. Laws are urgently required to force online marketplaces to take reasonable steps to ensure products on their platforms are safe.”   

On checking the listings again on Thursday 4th May the listings were no longer active.

The Department for Business and Trade confirmed to the Press Association that its Office for Product Safety and Standards asked Meta to de-list the items on April 20.

A DBT spokeswoman said: “We are holding businesses to their legal obligations, including online marketplaces, to keep the public safe.

“Working with local Trading Standards, the Office for Product Safety and Standards is taking action to ensure that any products that pose a serious risk to consumers are identified and removed from sale.

“We are also carrying out a thorough assessment of product safety in the UK and exploring the issue of online marketplaces further.”

On background: 

Meta responded to Electrical Safety First’s original investigation with the following right of reply and commentary on background on 7th March:  

“We work closely with external partners and respond to valid legal requests including from the Office for Product Safety & Standards, to prevent illegal activity on our platforms.” - a Meta spokesperson.  

Information on background from Meta: 

  • On this occasion, neither law enforcement nor the Office for Product Safety and Standards have requested that these listings are removed in line with UK laws.