Mobile Phone Chargers Spark Safety Warning After 42% Failure Rate

42% of generic chargers for devices including mobile phones, renewable batteries, e-cigarettes and other electrical products tested by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service failed safety tests.

Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service purchased a range of generic (i.e. non-branded) chargers from Internet sellers and had them safety tested as part of their cyber-crime and cyber-safety enforcement work.

Of the 12 products purchased, five failed electrical safety tests. Failures included chargers supplied with suspected counterfeit fuses and insecure internal wiring that could cause shorting, live ‘arcing’ and overheating.

Warwickshire County Councillor John Horner, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said:

“Over 1.8 million mobile phone chargers are bought online annually and in the last five years the UK has seen a six fold increase in the number of fake and potentially unsafe electric goods being seized by enforcement authorities.”*

Genuine chargers manufactured for specific electrical devices are designed to allow the correct charge for the item and will very often have inbuilt protection systems to prevent overcharging and overheating of the device.

Generic or counterfeit chargers do not always have these protections.

Many imported ‘generic’ chargers do not satisfy UK safety regulations and these sub-standard, faulty or counterfeit electrical chargers can be deadly, causing electric shocks, fires and damage to property and equipment.

In December, national retailer Poundworld were fined £ £166,000 after they sold more than 72,000 faulty charger kits with loose wires could pose a risk of fire or electric shock. The case was brought by Carmarthenshire Trading Standards.

Warwickshire County Councillor Philip Johnson, Chair of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee added:

“The number house fires caused by electrical faults has increased by 29% over the past few years and some of this increase has been due to the use of faulty electrical chargers.”**

“I would strongly urge residents not to buy chargers from unknown suppliers online especially, if they are really cheap, as we all know, if it looks too good to be true, then it usually is. So please don’t take the risk, the consequences are just too high!”

In a bid to reduce the number of fires in the home caused by faulty electrical chargers, Warwickshire Trading Standards in partnership with Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service are asking residents to follow the advice below:

  • Only use the charger that has been specifically made for your electrical product model. Use official/original chargers and electrical cables
  • Only buy from reputable traders selling genuine products and check they have a British or European safety mark when buying it
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the device
  • If at all possible, don’t leave items on charge unattended for long periods and especially overnight.
  • Don’t charge a battery that looks like it could have been damaged or dropped
  • Don’t cover items when you are charging them as they emit heat
  • Test your smoke alarm regularly

Warwickshire Trading Standards is now working with sellers of faulty electrical chargers to have them removed from sale and advise their customers. Some of the sellers may face further enforcement action in the courts.

Keep up to date on the latest electrical product recalls here: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls

If you believe that you have purchased an electrical product that has developed an electrical fault, caused a fire or could be potentially faulty, stop using the product and report it to Warwickshire Trading Standards on 03454 040506 (via Citizens Advice Consumer Service).

More information about trading standards is available on the Warwickshire Web: http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/tradingstandards

*figures from Electrical Safety First

**figures from COOP