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21 May 2020

Dangerous hair clippers being sold online

An investigation by Electrical Safety First has found unsafe products readily available from Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.com

Consumers planning to buy grooming products while hairdressers and nail salons are temporarily closed have been warned to avoid dangerous devices available online.

The warning, issued by Electrical Safety First, follows a review of product listings on Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.com. The investigation uncovered a number of unsafe electrical items that could potentially put lives at risk.

These latest findings are backed by research carried out by Which? that also identified third-party sellers listing dangerous products for sale on online marketplaces.

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What did Electrical Safety First find?

In its snapshot investigation, Electrical Safety First visually assessed the listings of 15 electrical items on Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.com.

The group uncovered mains-powered hair clippers and electric nail files. These were being sold with 'dangerously poor quality' travel adaptors for permanent use, rather than UK plugs, increasing the risk of severe electric shock or fire.

Electrical Safety First's investigation also saw home hair removal kits being listed with plugs that are illegal for sale in the UK.

With current rules around social distancing preventing buyers from heading in-store, potentially unsafe products available online pose a significant threat. Always do your research when buying online and remember that cheaper isn't always better.

Which? calls for better regulation

In response to the investigation, Sue Davies, head of consumer protection at Which?, said:

'These worrying findings back up our own research, which has repeatedly exposed how people's safety can be put at serious risk as a result of third-party sellers listing dangerous products for sale on online marketplaces.

'It's clear that consumer protections must be strengthened to tackle the scourge of unsafe products, and the government has to make platforms legally responsible for preventing these dangerous items from being listed online.'

Our investigations uncover deadly products

A series of Which? investigations dating back to last year have found numerous examples of dangerous products being sold to the public through online marketplaces.

  • September 2019 - we uncovered dozens of dangerous USB chargers, travel adaptors and power banks listed for sale on AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.
  • November 2019 - we discovered that so-called safeguards put in place to stop dangerous products being sold on marketplaces weren't working.
  • February 2020 - we revealed that a staggering 66% of the 250 products we'd bought from online marketplaces, in collaboration with five other European consumers' associations, failed safety tests.
Smoke alarms that don't detect smoke, burned-out Christmas lights and melting power banks have all been revealed in Which? safety tests

Better protection needed for consumers

At Which?, we believe that four significant regulatory improvements need to be made to ensure that consumers are protected when buying from online marketplaces.

Sell safe products

Online marketplaces should be required to ensure that consumer products offered for sale by sellers on their sites are safe.

Clarity on what to do when products are found to be unsafe

The steps online marketplaces need to take when unsafe products are identified should be clarified.

Greater enforcement powers

Enforcement officers, such as Trading Standards departments and the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), should have the appropriate powers, resources, investigatory skills and intelligence to police online marketplaces, and the supply networks that underpin them.

Transparency for consumers

There should be greater transparency obligations so that consumers are clear who they are buying from.

Online retailers respond

In response to the Electrical Safety First investigation, auction site eBay removed the potentially dangerous items once they were reported, claiming its filters automatically blocked four million listings from entering the marketplace on product safety grounds between March 2019 and March 2020.

A spokesman for the auction site said: 'The safety of eBay users is our priority and we work with organisations around the world including the EU market surveillance authorities and Trading Standards.'

'If any of these authorities informs us that a product is dangerous, we ban it on all our marketplaces globally and inform and educate sellers on the ban.'

Reacting to the findings of the Electrical Safety First investigation, a spokesperson for Amazon said: 'We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations and have developed industry-leading tools to prevent unsafe or non-compliant products from being listed in our stores.'

Meanwhile, a statement made by Wish.com said all merchants on its site are 'required to adhere to local laws and safety standards wherever their goods are sold'.

'In the rare instance where a product falls below those standards and sufficient evidence is provided, we take the appropriate action to remove the items as swiftly as possible,' a spokesperson commented.

'In some cases, we also apply sanctions to merchants who have intentionally circumvented our policies and safety standards.'

Sign our petition and demand action against unsafe products.