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Illegal weapons for sale on third-party marketplaces including eBay, Amazon

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Illegal weapons are being sold by third-party sellers on online marketplaces including Amazon Marketplace and eBay, a Which? investigation has found.

The consumer group carried out simple searches for banned offensive weapons on popular online marketplaces, and was easily able to find items including zombie and flick knives, knuckle dusters, swords and batons. It said some of the products were selling for as little as 49p.

The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 bans the sale of these weapons in the UK and they are also banned for personal ownership, even in a private home.

Searching on Amazon, Which? found more than a dozen listings for friction lock batons, which are also banned offensive weapons, masquerading as ‘trekking poles.

Some of the listings used special characters, such as ‘bătõň’, in the title or only used the word baton in the artwork – presumably to avoid detection by Amazon. Some of the images on the listings indicated that they could be used for self-defence and fighting.

On eBay, a variety of illegal swords, zombie knives, and knuckle dusters were found for sale, including a 23-inch steel serrated-edged zombie knife (£27) and a 27-inch zombie blade with a red fire design (£32).

One seller was offering a combo deal on a karambit blade and a ‘paralysing spray’ for £13.99 – items all banned in eBay’s terms and conditions.

The widest selection of weapons were found on AliExpress and Wish – with simple searches of the terms ‘flick knife’, ‘automatic opening knife’ and ‘spring assisted knives’ returning dozens of results on each.

AliExpress even targeted Which? researchers with promotional emails for cut price blades after it carried out searches on the site.

On all four platforms, additional banned weapons were recommended by the platforms’ algorithms after initial searches for weapons.

“Worryingly, this suggests the marketplaces are not only facilitating the sale of illegal products but perpetuating the problem by recommending other illegal or dangerous products to users,” Which? said.

Amazon, eBay and Wish said they had removed all the listings reported to them by Which?.

Amazon said it would take “appropriate enforcement” against the baton sellers, eBay said it was investigating why the items were not blocked to UK buyers and Wish said it was “exploring remedial action against any offending merchants.”

AliExpress said it had removed the listings although Which? continued to receive promotional emails including one offering a ‘self defence’ flick knife for £2.83.

Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy, said: “It is disturbing that our latest investigation has uncovered illegal weapons being sold on online marketplaces at extraordinarily cheap prices and that these tech firms are also pushing additional dangerous items to people. This raises big question marks over the checks and monitoring being done by these platforms.

“It’s clear that online marketplaces need to take more responsibility and prevent illegal weapons appearing on their sites.”

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