As well as giving us the wisdom of the world at our fingertips, and a billion cat pictures, the internet provides us with a tool to hunt out a shopping bargain.
For most of us now the first step on the road to an electrical purchase is to scout around online to find the best deal. But, on our hunt for a bargain, one in three of us have ended up buying dodgy goods, according to Electrical Safety First (ESF).
The charity is warning people to be careful when buying electrical items online as many of us are led to believe we are buying a genuine branded product only to find out it’s a fake further down the line.
It’s the younger generation who are the most likely to be scammed with around half of 25 to 34-year-olds admitting they’d been conned into buying fake electrical goods online.
Whereas only 10% of savvy over 55s have received a counterfeit item off the internet.
While paying over the odds for a branded item that turns out to be fake may be annoying the bigger concern is the safety failings of the counterfeit products.
ESF found many of the dodgy items it came across had serious safety failings including no protection from electric shocks and the potential to cause a fire. It also found that a number of goods it found for sale were on product recall lists.
“We are appalled to discover how easy it is to buy dangerous electrical goods online,” says Phil Buckle, chief executive of ESF. “Our investigation uncovered appliances that were visibly substandard, counterfeit or even subject to recall, with model numbers matching items on our product recall list.
“Latest figures show card spending on the internet totals £154 billion per year, so it’s unsurprising that one in three of us have mistakenly bought a counterfeit online.
"It’s evident that e-commerce websites must work to improve the way in which they regulate third-party sellers to protect consumers from the risks posed by dangerous fake goods.”
How to stay safe
- Be price savvy – Do your research to check roughly what price an item is selling for. If you see it sold somewhere for a much lower price be suspicious. Remember, if a price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Check the contact details – What contact details does the seller give? If they don’t provide any, or it is a PO Box, be wary.
- Don’t rely on reviews – Good reviews don’t guarantee a product isn’t fake. The reviewer may not be aware the product is a fake and are basing their review on it working at one point in time, not the future potential risks it poses.
- Stick to reputable retailers – Buy your electrics from a trusted retailer, or directly from the manufacturer, and you can be assured you are buying the genuine article.
How to spot a fake
- The packaging – Is it flimsy, poorly printed, or does the wording contain spelling mistakes?
- Safety certificate – All electrical products will have one of more safety certifications on the label if they are genuine. If the marks are only on the packaging and not the item itself that’s a warning sign.
- The contents – Alongside the actual product if the extra items such as an instruction manual or product registration card are missing it may be a fake.
- Check the plug – If you’ve bought from a UK retailer it should have a British three-pin plug or charger.
If you suspect your item is a fake don’t use it and report it to Trading Standards.