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Shoppers risk fires buying electronics from third-party sellers online, charity warns

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Christmas shoppers are being warned to stick to buying electronics from online marketplaces they already trust, or risk potential failures that could lead to fires.

Research from the charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) found that millions more UK consumers than usual will turn to online marketplaces for gifts this Christmas due to Covid-19 fears.

The survey suggests 58 per cent of Brits will be shopping on online marketplaces for Christmas this year, with over half (53 per cent) of them saying they’ll be using these sites more than in previous years.

The majority (59 per cent) of respondents said they would choose online marketplaces to avoid possible Covid-19 exposure, but ESF is concerned consumers are simply replacing one risk with another, as multiple investigations from the charity have unearthed dangerous electrical products for sale via third parties on these sites.

It repeatedly found unsafe electrical devices for sale on sites including Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.com.

The charity is urging consumers to reduce their chances of buying dangerous electrical goods by sticking to the stores or websites of known manufacturers and retailers such as those found on the high street.

Repeated calls for online marketplaces to take responsibility for the products sold on their websites have not yielded significant action; ESF is also calling for legislation that would legally require them to do so.

Until this legislation is passed, though, consumers are “urged to steer clear” of buying from third-party sellers on these platforms.

Lesley Rudd, ESF chief executive, said: “With Covid-19 at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the moment, it is understandable that many consumers are planning to shop online for Christmas gifts to avoid the high street this year.

“But we would urge people purchasing electrical products, to use the stores or websites of known manufacturers and retailers such as those found on the high street, rather than resorting to third party sellers on online marketplaces.

“Our investigations have found some extremely dangerous items for sale on these platforms and substandard or counterfeit products are often very difficult to spot to the untrained eye. We have proposed legislation which, if passed, would force online marketplaces to take responsibility for the safety of the goods sold on them and allow consumers to shop in good faith but until that happens we urge caution.”

David MacKenzie, Chartered Trading Standards Institute lead officer for e-commerce, said: “Covid-19 has accelerated an existing trend towards more and more online shopping by UK consumers.

“The internet can provide buyers with great opportunities in terms of choice and convenience. However, at the same time, they must be wary and only buy from reliable sources to ensure quality and safety.

“Sub-standard electrical products can be hazardous, and Trading Standards' advice to shoppers is to do their homework before buying; check a trader out online and read any reviews. If you’re not fully satisfied, don’t buy from them. And don’t rule out the option of buying from a trusted local 'bricks and mortar' shop, which can often provide extra assurance and customer service.”

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