A shameless plug for your two-pin plug comments

by , Conversation Editor Energy & Home 31 January 2013
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Two-pin plugs. Who would have thought such a topic would inspire so many comments. It seems being sent an electrical item without a UK plug turns most people off. Let’s have a look at some of your comments.

Two-pin EU plug

Most electricals should be delivered with a UK three-pin plug (some are exempt, like shavers and toothbrushes). The fact that some online retailers don’t do this started a lively debate.

There were loads of comments to choose from (more than 300 in fact), so I’m sorry if I’ve missed any of you out. Anyway, here’s Socketman to launch this round-up:

‘It is quite appalling that online sellers think it is OK to ignore UK law. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Trading Standards is organised on a local basis and find it difficult to tackle multi-national companies like Amazon.’

Amazon – let’s socket to them

Amazon was mentioned in a number of your comments, with third-party Amazon Marketplace sellers often posting out electricals with EU plugs. Alan bought a wireless adapter:

‘It came with a two-pin plug and extra adapter to connect up to a UK socket. Quite a cumbersome bit of kit. When I queried it with the supplier they said these were imported from Europe and they added the adapter for UK markets.’

It’s important to note that sending out an adapter isn’t good enough – any two-pin plugged appliance must be fitted with a conversion plug. Boglost bought a scanner:

‘It had a two-pin plug transformer on its cable. I didn’t realise that this type of plug was illegal in the UK and just considered it an inconvenience to use a two-pin adapter.’

Philip123 was also delivered a scanner with the wrong plug, but had a better experience:

‘I ordered a scanner in the summer and, finding it had a two-pin plug I returned it at [Amazon’s] request, for a refund. After a number of emails between us, in which they specifically claimed their stock had been checked at the warehouse and was now UK, not EU, I re-ordered. Same problem. As I really wanted the scanner I suggested they send me a £5 adapter or a credit note towards one. To my surprise they decided to give me 15% discount to keep the scanner and obtain my own adapter.’

Pulling the plug on two-pin plugs

Goodfoodie has had a bit of trouble with Argos:

‘I was bought a Kodak printer as a Christmas present, only to find the cable had a two-pin plug attached. Contacted Argos who offered to send me an adapter, which I declined stating that they had illegally supplied an item. I declined a refund as I want the item. Eventually I was put through to a supervisor and after several conversations […] they are posting me a correct cable.’

Not everyone was critical of two-pin plugged appliances. Sumbloke just fits UK plugs himself:

‘I buy most of my aquarium equipment online as there are massive savings to be had compared to buying from local aquatic dealers. Most of the equipment – heaters, filters and lighting come with two-pin plugs attached and a three-pin adapter is supplied for UK plug sockets. I just chop off the two-pin plug and install a three-pin plug. This is not an issue for me and I will certainly continue to support my favourite online dealers.’

If you, like Sumbloke, are happy to replace a two-pin plug with a its three-pinned cousin, make sure you know how to change a plug safely. But, of course, you really shouldn’t have to. Have you ever ordered electrical goods online just for it to arrive with a two-pin plug?

360 comments

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Scott

I certainly found plenty of converters. Anyone receiving an appliance fitted with a Europlug would have no difficulty acquiring a converter. If the seller ‘happily proclaims’ that the item is fitted with a Europlug anyone with an ounce (or should that be 28 grammes?) of common sense would order a converter if they don’t have one.

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greg miles

Of course most of us can change plugs but there are lots of old folk out there who can’t see well enough to do so which is why the regs were written in the first place. If you have regs they should be enforced, otherwise repeal them.

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Scott

If you employed the services of Google you would see there is no need to change the plug as the whole point of the converter is to avoid the need to change the plug. I agree the regulations should be repealed as they stand in the way of freedom of movement of goods within the European Union and limit freedom of consumer choice, and there is nothing inherently dangerous about using a converter to allow a Europlug to be used in a UK 13 amp socket. Incidentally, I think you might find the ‘old folk’ (as you disparagingly put it) may have more of a clue about changing plugs than the younger generation who have probably never carried out this task.

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George

This is not accurate: “there is nothing inherently dangerous about using a converter to allow a Europlug to be used in a UK 13 amp socket.”

UK sockets have a fuse for a reason. The mains work on a ring, and the fuse it to protect the cable from fire. Continental wiring systems are not the same, and they do not require a fuse in the plug. Every converter I have seen except a very expensive multi-way from Skross has not had a fuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if importing the adapter itself is illegal – many of them come from China and Taiwan for use in Singapore and other countries that also use the UK socket, but do not use the ring main system (the fuse is redundant).

In this instance, changing a plug

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Scott

There has been a lot of discussion since I posted this comment in April. We are all now pretty much in agreement. All I would say (without wanting to reopen the argument) is that I was referring to a properly constructed and approved adapter, such as the ones found in Maplins for example. It is imperative to have a fuse as a Europlug is 2.5 amps and the UK ring main is 32 amps. I meant to say there is nothing inherently dangerous in using a correctly fitted adapter with the correct fuse to connect a Europlug. I appreciate that the Regulations place the responsibility on the supplier. I personally would feel confident to do the job myself. I would fit a 2 amp rather than 3 amp fuse.

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Em

Interesting FAQs for sellers on Amazon:

“What type of products can’t I sell on Amazon.co.uk? …

… Prohibited content

Products that are not safe: All new toys and electrical equipment must be CE marked. All toys and electrical equipment, whether new or used, must be safe (that is, there is no risk that the equipment will cause death, personal injury or damage to property) and, where applicable, come with a UK standard three-pin plug. … Products not meeting these requirements are prohibited.”

And a very helpful page for their international sellers about the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 can be found here:

https://sellercentral-europe.amazon.com/gp/seller/registration/participationAgreement.html/ref=im_xx_cont_xx?itemID=201416530&language=en_GB

However, for all their guidance and disclaimers, it does not absolve Amazon UK of legal responsibility since it is Amazon that: ” … expose for supply and possess for supply [when they carry out the fulfilment] … ” electrical equipment that does not comply with the Regulations.

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socketman

Em, my heartfelt congratulations in finding that Amazon page!

It would be very good if Amazon would enforce it, but they do not engage in policing activities, virtually never take action on reports of illegal activity from individuals, and rarely on interventions from Trading standards officers. I will post a separate message with a link to the archived version of a BBC Watchdog blog on the subject.

The Amazon document does have a glaring problem, under the heading “The following types of plugs will be accepted:” it says “Electric shaver, toothbrush or similar appliance with an EU plug”. “EU plug” is an entirely meaningless term, there are many different plugs used in the EU (including our own), there is certainly no one plug which could be described as an “EU Plug”. We assume that they mean a Europlug, but for this statement to be meaningful it must be changed to “Europlug conforming with BS EN 50075″ in accord with the description in the regulations themselves, which is:

“Any non–rewirable or any moulded–on Europlug (that is to say any plug conforming with BS EN 50075) which is designed for the purpose of connecting to a shaver supply unit conforming to BS 3535: Part 1 any electrical shaver, toothbrush or similar appliance; and for the purposes of this paragraph the expression “shaver supply unit” shall have the meaning given to it in BS 3535: Part 1.”

To compound their error they also illustrate the exceptions by showing only a shaver and a toothbrush with chargers having Europlug-like pins, but these do not come within the plug defined in BS EN 50075 and are not acceptable devices to supply in the UK as such chargers are not suitable to plug into shaver supply units.

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socketman

The BBC Watchdog programme I mentioned above is unfortunately no longer available (the relevant segment was still viewable last year) but here is a link to an archive of the related blog:
http://web.archive.org/web/20131005042322/http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2008/12/08/

In this a Trading Standards officer, discussing Amazon’s listing of other prohibited items, is quoted as saying “We’re talking about something that’s officially classed as an offensive weapon. It’s not a grey area, it’s black and white. The law says you cannot possess these items in the UK. Certainly for things that are clearly illegal there should be systems in place to stop them even getting on the site.” he said rather more than that in the broadcast interview.

With regard to Amazon’s response to the issue back then (December 2008), you can see how serious they were by referring to these items of the same type which were on sale in early March this year:
http://www.bs1363.org.uk/March2014_sample_listings_Pepper_Spray_etc.pdf These products were removed by Amazon after a reference to this list was published on the Parliamentary publications website (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmpublic/consumer/memo/cr22.htm ). It was good that Amazon took that action a few weeks ago, but exposure on a TV programme, and exposure via Parliament, are rather extreme solutions for what should be a routine process of self-enforcement which does not depend on outside agencies!

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socketman

Em, Are there any similar Amazon guidelines for other electrical products which should not be sold in the UK? I am thinking of things like fuseless plugs and other unapproved plugs which fit UK sockets but are not legal in the UK – but are not mentioned in those guidelines. Also, travel adaptors which fit UK sockets but do not have fuses and/or shutters, chargers which fit UK sockets but do not comply with the pin dimensions of BS 1363 (as thy must to be legal), and Universal Sockets which are not legal in the UK. These items are all available from Amazon sellers, often fulfilled by Amazon.

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Scott

Suggesting that electrical items fitted with Europlugs can be equated with offensive weapons is misleading. Possession of an offensive weapon (in a public place) is an offence. Possession of a Europlug is not. The offence relates to the supply of equipment fitted with an unauthorised plug – not its possession – so the two categories are different.

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Em

Socketman – I’ve no idea, but I can’t find any. I was selling some books on Amazon trade-in and started looking at other seller’s FAQs and was surprised to see some explicit (although, as you point out, not very accurate) guidance on UK plugs.

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socketman

“Suggesting that electrical items fitted with Europlugs can be equated with offensive weapons is misleading.” Rubbish, it is a criminal offence to supply either item.

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socketman

The parliamentary evidence I linked to above has a link to captured images of listings for five illegal electrical products being offered by Amazon.co.uk at the same time as the ten listings of CS Spray already mentioned. I have just checked on Amazon, all five electrical products are still available.

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Scott

Socketman – Your posting contains the words ‘The law says you cannot possess these items in the UK’ so posting this into a Conversation about two pin plugs is with respect misleading.

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socketman

Scott, it is not at all misleading.

The law governing plugs and sockets states: “no person shall supply, offer for supply, agree to supply, expose for supply or possess for supply any appliance unless that appliance is correctly fitted with a standard plug“.

Please respect the facts.

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Scott

Happy with that, including the fact that in is NOT illegal to possess these items in the UK unlike offensive weapons and the Trading Standards officer was talking about prohibited items. I would not want anyone to think it is illegal to possess Europlugs in the UK. It is the supply that is criminalised not the possession.

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wavechange

Scott

I have tried to explain why two-pin Europlugs can be dangerous in the UK. One of the main problems is that it is easy to insert them into a BS 1363 socket, especially where the protective shutter can be opened by inserting an object in the socket for the Earth pin. The main reason why this is dangerous is because the electrical item is then unfused except for the 30A fuse or 32A circuit breaker in the distribution board.

I have seen two-pin plugs put in three-pin sockets, both wall sockets and those in extension leads. I will not post links to videos showing this done, for obvious reasons.

You could argue that we don’t need to protect people that do stupid things, but I think we should. For example, UK sockets have shutters to protect us if we try to poke objects into the socket.

Replacing a two-pin plug with a three-pin fused plug is not necessarily a simple matter. Most of the plugs I have seen fitted by householders are unsatisfactory for some reason or other. Since these discussions I have had one diagram showing a ‘correctly’ wired plug and one video showing how to wire a plug removed from reputable websites because of safety issues. Factory-fitted moulded plugs have provided a great improvement in safety since the days when electrical goods were supplied without plugs.

Safety must take priority over international trade.

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Scott

Wavechange – you have subtly altered what I said in my most recent post. I was pointing out that I do not consider use of an adapter to be inherently dangerous. My point about plugs was that Greg made a claim that ‘old folk’ (as he put it) were less able to change plugs and I was making the point that those who lived before fitted plugs became commonplace may well have a better idea of how to change a plug.

I appreciate we have had this argument may times, though on a different Conversation. My view is that the equipment is approved by the European Union for use with two pin sockets, no polarity requirement and a 16 amp fuse. Putting it into a converter plug with a three amp fuse exceeds what is required and cannot therefore be unsafe. An item that is safe to use in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia​, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal,
Republic of Ireland​, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden cannot suddenly become unsafe when it crosses the border into the United Kingdom.

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wavechange

Scott – If electrical equipment is supplied with a suitably fused and FITTED converter plug, my only concern is that it could be removed to use on another item, leaving the potential hazard that I have mentioned.

Simply supplying a converter plug with a product does not comply with the regulations, and I very much support this. Converter plugs are larger than a standard BS 1363 plug, itself frequently criticised by those from other countries. That provides encouragement to put the plug directly into a three-pin socket. A converter plug really needs to be non-removable to be safe. If you would like to see some of the problems with fitting, just have a look at some of the negative reviews of these products on the websites of retailers.

If a component fails in a small electrical or electronic item protected by a small fuse, little damage is likely to be caused. I have seen many examples of items wrongly fitted with a 13 amp fuse, where extensive damage including burning has been caused. I used to keep several examples for training purposes to emphasise the importance of using a small fuse. I would not be happy if my small electrical goods were only protected by a 16 amp fuse, and that point has been made by many people over the years.

Perhaps older people were better at wiring plugs but I have been rewiring and replacing plugs since I was a teenager in the 60s and I saw some very poor practice when it was normal to fit plugs. As with anything else, if you train people they usually do a competent job.

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malcolm r

Patrick Steen had a response from Amazon that included “Any seller found to contravene those guidelines will be subject to action from Amazon including removal of product listings and their account.” That seems a clear statement that illegal products, and their sellers, would not continue to be be listed. Are these empty words? The recent comments seem to think they are. Perhaps Amazon should be asked to respond and confirm their intent?

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Scott

I would be interested to know if this policy relates only to products supplied from within the UK or fulfilled by Amazon in the UK – or if it applies to all electrical goods advertised on Amazon’s UK site.

My understanding is that only UK suppliers are covered by the Regulations. An option might be for Amazon to despatch such items from a warehouse outside the UK to avoid having to comply with UK Regulations, in the same way that CDs until recently were despatched from the Channel Islands to avoid VAT. This would ensure continued freedom of consumer choice. I ordered my toothbrush from the German site to make sure I received one with a Europlug.

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socketman

Here we go again, Scott loves to try to mislead! Whether or not Amazon’s internal policy is meant by Amazon to apply only to UK suppliers is irrelevant, the regulations are quite clear:

“…. no person shall supply, offer for supply, agree to supply, expose for supply or possess for supply any appliance unless that appliance is correctly fitted with a standard plug”

If Amazon.co.uk advertises (exposes for supply) appliances (other than shavers or toothbrushes) fitted with Europlugs (no matter what the origin) then Amazon.co.uk is committing a criminal offence.

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Scott

Socketman – you could be right. I had forgotten how widely the regulations are framed. It’s interesting though. You could argue whether, in the case of a third party supplier (not fulfilled by Amazon), Amazon is making the offer or merely undertaking advertising on behalf of another. You could also argue whether ‘expose’ means advertise (your interpretation) or whether it means placing the physical goods on display. I think a legal test case would be very helpful and I wonder if Which could arrange this.

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malcolm r

Scott, if Amazon handle your payment in a transaction with a Marketplace trader – a third party – I’d argue that they might be responsible for the article supplied. Perhaps someone at Which? could help here? If you deal direct with the third party then presumably you have sole responsibility – in the same way as finding a product through Google or a newspaper ad would not leave any responsibility with Google or the paper.
Amazon’s terms include third party suppliers who don’t have “local addresses” – presumably therefore including those overseas, not just in the UK.
Generally the importer of a product is responsible for ensuring it meets UK regulations – CE marking compliance for example. As far as an Amazon purchase supplied from a warehouse outside the UK is concerned, they are still importing the product by distributing it to the seller and should comply.

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Scott

Just a thought: does this make it illegal to sell two pin chargers to Brits for use abroad, leaving such persons having to use an adapter that may or may not be legal at the destination?

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socketman

I know of no legal impediment to selling a charger having built-in non-UK pins (a “plug-top charger”). In fact the Plugs and Sockets Regulations are silent on “plug-top chargers”, they were quite rare at the time the regulations were framed. They are normally regarded as exclusions, the regulations exclude “Any plug, socket or adaptor which incorporates any other electrical device (other than a fuse link, switch or indicator light).”

We do need to have an update of the regulations. My belief is that would prohibit the sale of appliances including only non-UK “plug-top chargers”, but not the separate sale of such chargers (providing that they meet the relevant standards). This is perfectly justified for the reasons Scott mentions.

It remains important that mains-powered electrical goods sold in the UK are suitable for immediate attachment to UK sockets, that means that if the connection is via a flexible mains cord-with a plug, that plug must be a standard UK plug (with the toothbrush exception). If the connection is via a dedicated plug-top charger, that charger must be equipped with pins conforming to BS 1363. Plug-top chargers are generally unsuited to use in adaptors (and cannot be used with conversion plugs) because of the mechanics of the devices.

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Scott

I agree we need an update of the regulations. I think you, me and Wavechange should volunteer to go on to the consultative committee. I suspect we would get on well in real life

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socketman

What an excellent idea, let’s leave it to Patrick to propose it.

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wavechange

Count me in. We have been fairly well behaved towards each other, so I think we deserve the opportunity to make a real input on this issue.

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Seares

Isn’t this tedious?
Time to pull the plug!

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Scott

Agreed. It’s been a live discussion, some people are neutral I suppose but it’s more important to get down to earth!

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wavechange

That is a shocking example of childish humour, Scott. We had better get back on topic or Patrick might blow a fuse. :-)

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socketman

Are those pins that are being inserted into my effigy?

I charge you all with going off topic! ;)

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wavechange

We are in re-volt until we hear that Which? Has made some real progress on this problem. :-)

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malcolm r

There seems to be some resistance from Which? in providing guidance on the legal position, and in taking up the issues raised with Amazon. Patrick, what is the current situation?

Hi Malcolm and Wavechange, we have again amped up the pressure on Amazon following their previous response to see what they’re actually doing on the issue. Please bear with us.

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malcolm r

Keep plugging away Patrick. That’s it.

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Scott

I’m still not phased by the controversy.

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Stephen Hopkins

It hertz us, my Precious!

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Aggie

I have a question regarding two pin plugs on electrical items bought in a European country outside of the UK which also has three and two pin sockets as standard …….

Does a retailer or seller have to supply an adapter, if a product has a European plug ?

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socketman

Please explain further. Are you referring to a purchase made face-to-face in a non-UK country? If so, which one?

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aggie

Malta, the country that is in the EU with its own rules !

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socketman

It turns out that the answer is yes. The Maltese plug is the same as ours, the standard being “MSA BS 1363″. The Maltese Electrical Accessories Regulations, 2004 include requirements similar to ours. If the appliance is not fitted with a plug conforming to MSA BS 1363 then a conversion plug which cannot be removed without the use of a tool must be fitted by the supplier.

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jonasacetben

Has the current legislation been tested in a court yet?
I am in a deadlock situation with a retailer who sold me a fridge with a two-pin plug and refuses to fit it with a UK plug. I am past the ‘letter before action’ stage. The next step is the small claims court.

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Nigel Chapman

It has been illegal to sell electrical goods (except shavers and toothbrushes) in the UK for a number of years. It doesn’t matter if you can fit a 3 pin fused plug its still illegal for European style plug to be sold. But as long as the seller makes you aware that the item comes with a 2 pin plug then you can decide whether to purchase or not. Its the sellers that mislead you by not stating upfront this fact that really gets me annoyed. Even though probably most can rewire a plug, some can’t. When I buy items that are sold with being informed that it has a European plug I claim the cost of conversation. Most electricians will charge approx £11.50, so that’s what I claim back. Its only fair.

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Scott

This is the received wisdom of the Conversation. The caveat I would add (which has prompted considerable debate) is that this applies only where purchase is made from or through a UK supplier. If you buy direct from abroad to save money, then my understanding is that the laws of that jurisdiction would apply with no entitlement to a UK plug any more than an American buying electrical goods from the UK could demand a 110 Volt model.

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socketman

Whilst not wishing to reopen the disagreement about whether UK regulations can be made to control direct purchases from foreign suppliers I would point out the following:

1. The Plugs and Sockets regulations state that a seller must not offer to supply a product which does not comply with the regulations.

2. Amazon’s own rules prohibit offering a product which does not comply, even if the listing includes a statement that a non-UK plug is supplied.

3. eBay policy requires adherence to the Plugs and Sockets regulations for goods listed on eBay UK, and eBay international policies require that goods supplied from outside the UK which are made available to ship to the UK must also comply with the regulations.

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Scott

Socketman – I would pretty much agree with that, unless you go out of your way to purchase direct from an overseas supplier – as I did !!! The same would apply I am sure if you bought an appliance from the US. It would be 110 volts.

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Scott

Hi Socketman, I do not wish to reopen the ‘disagreement’ either as we now have a truce. However, as Nigel is new to the Conversation, I wanted to add some clarification (which I appreciate is open to interpretation). I entirely agree that where there is a UK intermediary, including an on-line presence, the UK regulations will apply eve if the goods are despatched from overseas. I was seeking to make the point that if you order direct from an overseas supplier (as I have done from the German Amazon site) you cannot then expect the UK rules to apply.

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Seares

Just bought a Samsung laser printer from Amazon. It came with the standard UK 3-pin fused plug lead PLUS another lead with plug which diligent research turned out to be the Brazilian type (three round pins, the earth one offset). Luckily I know someone who is going to Brazil and may need this for his laptop.

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socketman

It is not uncommon for manufacturers to supply two different leads in a box, that way they can cover several potential destinations with one standard package configuration. The most common I have seen is a UK plug plus a Europlug, but I suspect that what you may have got is a UK plug plus a Swiss plug as that would seem a more likely logistics decision than UK/Brazil. The Swiss earthing pin offset is 5mm, the Brazilian is only 3mm.

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Seares

You are right, socketman! The offset is 5mm. The printer was made in China, but came via Switzerland and Amazon (not Amazonia). They must have slipped in the two leads en route.

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Scott

For printers I’ve normally seem the Schuko hybrid plug (round with two pins and two side earths). I suppose it is cheaper to ship with two leads than to produce different boxes for different countries. I wonder what they do for Denmark which has its own plugs. Maybe they have similar issues with plugs and sockets regulations?

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Sheldon Clark

Check “Schuko” on Wikipedia and follow the link re the proposed standard replacement for the Schuko. (This replacement avoids the potential polarity problems of the Schuko, which can be used upside down, connecting Neutral pin to Live supply (& vice versa). The replacement sounds like the Swiss and Brazilian types, but the body is a flattened hexagon that fits into a hexagonal cup or guide socket, and the position of the earth pin ensures correct polarity.

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socketman

What it actually says is “The IEC 60906-1 standard was intended to address some of the issues in regards to polarisation and replace Schuko.” Note the WAS.

Here is what the “Brief History” tab on the IEC World Plugs page says:
“CENELEC, in Europe, was put under pressure by the European Commission to devise a harmonized plug and socket system for Europe. Incredible as it may seem, the economic consequences of the implementation of such a universal system were never assessed (not in Europe, nor elsewhere). The view of the Commission appears to have been based entirely on political considerations!
CENELEC took as its starting point the IEC standard of 1986 and spent thousands of man-hours undertaking the almost impossible task of modifying the design with the aim of ensuring 100% risk-free operation of the system when used in conjunction with all the existing plug types in Europe. Naturally, apart from the technical difficulties, there was the clash of the many vested commercial and political interests and it was not surprising that, after much work and many meetings, CENELEC had to admit defeat and abandon its efforts, much to the chagrin of the Commission.” (End of IEC quote)

Changing to a different plug type is just not going to happen, the infrastructure costs would be too great, not as high as changing which side of the road we drive, but equally unacceptable! That IEC page says that only Brazil and South Africa have adopted IEC 60906-1, but it is actually only South Africa. Despite adopting the standard in 2006, South Africa it has not yet made it a requirement to start fitting the new sockets, that may happen next year in new build situations. The switchover is expected to last for up to 20 years. Some of us can remember what it was like here in the 50s and 60s when, as well as the BS 1363 introduced in 1946, there were still in use 4 sizes of two-pin plugs in BS 372, 4 sizes of three-pin plugs in BS 546, various sizes of Wylex plug, and the Dorman Smith 13A type (which, despite not having been selected as the post-war standard, was used in some public housing new build through the ’50s). Imagine what it would be like for any western European country to make the switch now.

(What Brazil did was to take IEC 60906-1 as the basis for its own (non-compatible) standard, two versions instead of one, both different from the IEC standard in current rating and pin diameter, ignoring the shutter requirement which is mandated by IEC, and using them at both 127V and 220V with only a label to say which is which! IEC 60906-1 is specifically intended for 200-250V use only, and IEC adopted IEC 60906-2, basically the standard American 15A three pin plug, as the plug of choice for 100-130V systems. What Brazil has done is so odd as to be beyond comprehension!)

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Scott

Thanks to Socketman for the authoritative description. I thought the idea of rewiring Europe (with or without the UK and ROI) would be a non-starter. Despite any favourable comments I have made about Europlugs during the Conversation, there is no doubt we have the best system for mains wiring. I assume UK retains an ‘opt-out’ in the event of any EU proposal to harmonise?

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malcolm r

I’d suggest we take a lead on this and use our position in Europe to standardise on the BS 1363 plug across the European Community (EN 1363 perhaps). I don’t know whether Dave or Nigel would be best placed to force this through?

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David

There’s very little possibility of much change really bad.

The vast majority of countries in the EU use the CEE 7/4 “Schuko” (German style with earth clips) or CEE 7/5 (French style with earthing pin) sockets. These are reversed making it impossible to touch the live pins of the 16 amp plugs and avoiding the need to sheath the pins.

These sockets accept CEE 7/7 – 16 amp earthed plugs. They also accept CEE 7/17 a 16 amp ‘contour’ plug only used as a moulded on plug on appliances that do not use earth like vacuum cleaners etc.

Then there’s the CEE 7/16 plug which is small, flat and has sheathed pins. This is rated 2.5 amps and only used for light, non earthed devices. It fits CEE 7 sockets as well as non standard Italian, Swiss, Danish and Israeli sockets.

CEE 7 is used by hundreds of millions of Europeans, Russians and South Koreans. It’s also widely used elsewhere.

Modern sockets are shuttered and some countries have required that for some time.

They’re a very safe system when installed correctly and modern.

RCD usage is also more universal in most continental countries than it is in the UK.

I think you’re very unlikely to see any change of standards other than the Danish and Italian systems fading away.

Schuko performs very well and like BS1363 it’s safe when installed correctly.

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wavechange

The well known problem with Schuko plugs is that they are not polarised, which has serious safety implications, unless every single pole switch is replaced by a two pole switch.

Plugs that can be inserted either way round are convenient for phone chargers, where safety is not an issue.

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socketman

David, please review what you write to ensure it actually makes sense before you post.

“There’s very little possibility of much change really bad.” ????

“These are reversed making it impossible to touch the live pins”, maybe you meant ‘These are recessed’?

Or maybe you were making a Freudian slip, because ‘reversal’ is one of the major shortcomings in Schuko and Europlugs which have no polarizing mechanism! As I think someone else has already mentioned in this or the companion discussion, it is important to be able to distinguish between Neutral, which is at approximately 0V (harmless) relative to ground and Line, which is approximately 230V (potentially lethal) relative to ground. In any sensible system it is not possible to put the plug in the wrong way round, thus connecting the appliance Neutral pin to the supply Line, and the appliance Line pin to the supply Neutral. Take a simple example of a table lamp with an Edison Screw bulb, the metal screw itself forms one of the contacts for the circuit and should always be connected to Neutral. If a lamp is plugged into a non-polarized socket, the metal screw can become energized, presenting an electric shock hazard to anyone touching it.

“They’re a very safe system when installed correctly and modern.” and there’s the rub. The majority of installed sockets do not have shutters, so are not safe for children. There are many older non-recessed sockets in use which accept the unsleeved pins and leave them exposed when the plug is partially inserted. (Yes, I know BS 1363 plugs have only had sleeved pins for the last 30 years, but the few unsleeved plugs in service can be easily changed by the appliance owner, a much easier task than refitting recessed socket throughout a building.) Most travel adaptors do not have recesses and also therefore leave unsleeved pins exposed. It is far too easy to use French and Schuko plugs in sockets or adaptors which provide them with no earth connection (and how many users realize what danger they are putting themselves in by doing that?)

RCD usage has nothing to do with it, whilst universal RCD usage should be the norm, it cannot save you from all danger.

Schuko is a fundamentally flawed system, it would only be actually safe if used in a an unreal world without non-compliant sockets, no appliances was ever designed without taking account of its lack of polarity, and no ES lamps existed. Such a Utopia has not, does not, and will not exist.

The only part of this post that actually makes sense is your estimate of the improbability of change.

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wavechange

Socketman – Do you know if the side contacts of a Schuko plug/socket combination fare in Earth continuity tests? Even though there are two contacts, the contact area seems rather small and I guess that dirt could accumulate in the recesses at the side of the plug.

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socketman

I have no information on that, but as the contact is still achieved with a sprung resilient member and is a scraping contact I am not sure that it would be much different to a pin and socket.

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Scott

Wavechange raises a point I had not fully appreciated. If only the neutral is switched, and someone changes an Edison screw bulb in the belief the lamp is switched off, then either touches the metal or the glass breaks, there would then be a potentially lethal situation. I assumed where the plug is non-polarised a two pole switch would be mandatory. I was taught that gripping a live conductor was more serious than touching it so this is a truly hazardous scenario. I expect advice is to disconnect from the mains (for a lamp) and that lighting circuits will have polarity respected.

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wavechange

There are many reasons why lack of polarisation can be dangerous. Staying with simple examples, if someone pokes a knife into a toaster to dislodge a jammed piece of bread without removing the plug, they could be electrocuted even though the toaster itself is switched off. I have seen this done. Schuko and other non-polarised plugs are good examples of poor design.

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Scott

It’s getting a bit worrying we are all in agreement! Did someone say there are other Conversations where heated arguments are taking place?

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wavechange

My argument is that safety must take priority over freedom to import goods that could detract from safety. Keep a look out for two-pin Europlugs poked into sockets and extension leads. I have seen plenty of examples where foreign students have done this, totally unaware of the risks.

One of my favourite recent Conversations is ‘How long should your washing machine last?’, where there has been some fairly strong disagreement about the Sale of Goods Act and warranties, helped by some fascinating input from the MD of a small company that sells washing machines.

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Scott

10 years – must find that Conversation :-)

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wavechange

If you want a manufacturer’s warranty for 10 years we will be in complete agreement. :-)

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malcolm r

Scott, try http://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/washing-machines-faulty-broken-lifespan-lifetime-warranty-guarantee. Wavechange – input from Which? would be appropriate.

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David

I posted on a tablet device, hence the typos and you cannot edit posts on here after you’ve pressed submit.

Actually, oddly enough European appliances (including all of those sold in the UK and Ireland) must be designed to be safe to operate in either polarity because of this quirk of European plugs.

I agree, it’s not ideal and there are a few circumstances where it could be potentially dangerous. However, in general these were engineered out by requiring all appliances to be safe in either polarity. This was an issue with very old appliances like vintage radios where chassis were sometimes used to carry neutrals (illegal nowadays).

If you’ve ever compared a US and European lamp with an ES bulb socket, there’s a cuff that comes right up to almost the edge of the bulb on the European version that is not necessarily there on the US version. This is to protect your fingers from a potentially live screw.

I’m always baffled as to how bulb sockets survived without being completely redesigned to remove any risk of contact with live or neutral though. Bayonet fittings eliminate the polarity ambiguity, but they still have a serious risk of contact with live pins.

An ES or BC bulb holder without a bulb inserted is pretty dangerous in general and wouldn’t be tolerated on any other type of appliance apart from a lamp. Can you imagine a washing machine or a television with a large opening with live contacts?!

I also don’t understand why they couldn’t have just polarised Schuko.
It would be very easy to achieve, without causing problems for older fittings. Just phase out the German style sockets in favour of the French ones. The same plugs fit both, but when they’re used with the French system they only go in one way.

The 16amp non-grounded contour plugs only go into French sockets one way in most cases too as they’ve a round face with a small notch on one side and a space for the earth pin to pass through on the other side, so they will only slot in one way.

You could still use the flat 2 pin plugs with appliances that do not need polarisation – many double-insulated appliances for example are connected with figure of 8 plugs anyway so, even in the UK and Ireland the polarity isn’t guaranteed.

Also, bear in mind that the reason that Schuko was reversible was probably because many continental supplies before WWII (and even some today) do not have a neutral. The power may be supplied as two lives with a potential difference between them of 220-230V but 127V to ground. It’s becoming rare, but it was common in the old days.

Also, not everyone agrees that TN / protective multiple earth systems are the way to go because they create issues with bonding, stray neutrals and equipotential zones.

Many countries use TT earthing as standard (the UK uses TN-C and TT, Ireland uses TN-C-S most often and TT sometimes, Norway uses IT mostly). So, you can’t really be universally sure that the neutral always going be at 0V relative to earth. Many countries using TT systems also require double-pole circuit breakers and a 200mA RCD across the entire system to prevent fire risk (as well as 30mA RCDs for personal protection).

In appliance safety and wiring regulations, the neutral conductor should absolutely never to be assumed to be 0V anywhere in Europe.

Even in the UK and Ireland if you could potentially get a pretty nasty shock if there’s a higher than 0V potential on the neutral. This could happen where there’s been a neutral fault or a wiring error. It could also potentially happen in a TT system where there could simply be a difference between the neutral and the earth.

In general though, all of these systems are very safe when implemented fully to code and when they’re up-to-date.

Ubiquitous RCD use has also largely eliminated most of the serious risk around many of these issues.

If you’re looking at a French system from a UK perspective, you will see differences you may not like. If you’re looking at a UK system from a French perspective you’ll see differences you don’t like.

For example:

From a UK perspective looking at a typical French installation you’ll be concerned about older installations that may have some non-earthing sockets, sockets in the bathroom, certain types of plugs that are not polarised, lack of fused plugs.

Looking at a UK installation from a French perspective: Older plugs that sometimes have unsheathed pins that can be touched (Recessed sockets in continental systems protect your fingers from any contact). Use of single pole circuit breakers on TT systems, ring circuits allowing wiring to be dramatically up rated and relying on flimsy fuses in plugs for fire protection. Very late introduction of RCDs relative to most continental countries (and Ireland) which would have had them commonly installed since the late 1970s.

BS1363 plugs are a good design in some ways, not so good in others.

BS1363 good points:

Shutters.
Polarised.
Earthed sockets have been required since day one, so there’s no ambiguity.

Bad points:

Because the sockets are not recessed, only the tips of the pins contact the terminals in the socket when the plug is inserted. This is required as older plugs had no sheathing on pins and it minimised risk of shock while inserting the plug.
Result of this is that the pins can run hot due to the small surface area of contact.

Fuse holder: This is a very poor design on a lot of cheaper rewirable plugs (MK being an exception). It’s hard to ensure the fuse is making good contact and the holder is easily deformed. If the fuse is loose it can overheat (and this happens quite a bit on plugs used for high sustained load appliances like heaters and fryers etc).

Older plugs still exist that have potential risks of contact with pins while inserting / removing the plug.

Schuko or CEE 7/7:

Good points:

Recessed socket – eliminates risk of finger contact with pins and allows lots of surface area of the pin to be in contact with the terminals of the sockets resulting in less heating risks.

Rewirable plugs have screws going across them, so you’re never risking pulling the plug back off / holding the whole thing together with a single screw.

Possibility of having non-grounded moulded plugs and 2.5amp moulded plugs for small appliances, making many portable appliances much less bulky to carry / store.

Bad points:
Lack of polarisation.
Backwards compatibility with obsolete non-grounded sockets and foreign sockets with different earthing arrangements (Denmark etc) where the plug can be connected without connecting the earth.

All in all, I think both systems when installed and used correctly are very safe and robust.

I’m quite happy with either a modern continental installation or a modern UK/Irish installation. They’re all very high spec once done right.

Compared to US and Australian plugs and sockets, both of the major European systems are actually excellent!

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Scott

David – thanks for the informative posting, which I am sure will reinvigorate discussion in this Conversation.

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wavechange

David – I raised concerns about lamp holders earlier in our discussions, possibly in the earlier Conversation. Any product that allows contact with live terminals should have been consigned to museums years ago, yet we are still using them.

I have encountered examples of BS 1363 plugs running warm under sustained high load but modern moulded plugs with plated pins (rather than brass, which can tarnish and introduce contact resistance) seem to be adequate and avoid the problem of poor installation by users. What does concern me is that many fuse carriers and plugs do not have an inspection window. I have a 1950s brown bakelite plug with an inspection window, so a few manufacturers have some catching up to do. I am also extremely disappointed that it has become standard to fit 3A or 13A fuses rather than the minimum rating needed. Anyone who believes that a plug fuse only protects the lead has obviously not had much experience of burned components and circuit boards. I use 1A or 2A fuses wherever possible to minimise fire risk. It is interesting to see that shaver adaptors have retained 1A fuses.

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Sarah S-H

David, you wrote that “The 16amp non-grounded contour plugs only go into French sockets one way in most cases too as they’ve a round face with a small notch on one side and a space for the earth pin to pass through on the other side, so they will only slot in one way.”

Have you taken a look at the picture at the top of this page? It clearly shows an ungrounded “profile” plug designed to go into the French socket either way, I know that the French standard allows an optional design which will only go in one way, but in my experience, supported by the Which? picture, we can clearly see that non-polarized versions are in common use. Safety measures are never effective if they are optional rather than required, and that is at the heart of what is wrong with the French and German systems. I know that those countries are not going to change, but lax standards in most of Europe are no excuse for not protecting our own superior standards.

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David

I agree with you on the lack of availably of fuses other than 3 amp and 13 amp, although the primary purpose of the fuse is to protect the flex/cord of the appliance rather than internal components.

The BS1362 fuse isn’t really appropriate for protecting fragile components. Its blowing characteristics are designed to allow for slight power surges with causing nuisance. So for example, when you start a heavy motor, you will get a surge for a very short time which the BS1362 fuse will survive. Otherwise, there would have been an issue with heavy motors in some appliances causing endless blown fuses.

They’re not quite slow blowing, but they’re close enough to it.

For small component protection, you’d really need to consider using fast-blow glass fuses in the appliance itself.

I’m based in the Republic of Ireland and our wiring is a little different to the UK, in so far as we tend to use 20amp radial circuits much more frequently than you do.

The one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that a 20amp MCB will often trip before a 13amp BS1362 fuse has blown in the plug. So, the characteristics of the fuse wouldn’t really be ideal for protecting anything other than the flex.

The one thing I do like about the BS1363 system though is that it generally prevents overloading of individual sockets.

The only thing is that the standard allows double-adaptors without fuses which seems to be utterly daft, especially when you consider that we allow 32A ring circuits. So, with a double adapter plugged in you could easily have a situation where 26 amps was drawn through a single socket resulting in serious fire risks.

Ironically, despite all the plug fusing, that device wouldn’t usually cause a problem on properly installed continental or US wiring as the 15A (US) 16amp (Euro) (or sometimes 20amp both places) breaker would trip before the socket was overheated.

If it is used on a UK/IRL ring circuit, the breaker wouldn’t trip until 32amps was exceeded by which time the socket would be in serious difficulty.

I think those double adaptors should be banned completely. They’re just dangerous.

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wavechange

Thanks David. I fully understand the issues including the problem of nuisance blowing of fuses due to surge current. Nevertheless, 1 or 2 amp fuses are fine in some applications and I have some that have not been replaced in the past 30 years. Cars use multiple fuse ratings and professional equipment does too. We are obviously moving towards internal protection of power supplies and chargers that hopefully have built-in fuses and/or thermal fuses instead of replaceable ones. Unfortunately, the user has no idea of what protection exists and counterfeit products may contain none.

I very much agree about unfused adaptors and I have done my bit to confiscate and dispose of these where I used to work. Apart from the problem of overloading, the build quality is often poor and shutters can jam open, even with better quality fused ones. My advice is never to use any form of heater with adapters or multi-socket extension leads and it is helpful to attach a label to this effect.

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Scott

Another point about adapters is that they can be heavy and put strain on the socket. All but one of my sockets is double. Where required, I think trailing leads (powerstrips) are safer.

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David

One thing Which? could do is lobby for regulations that would cover adaptors.

There are a few standards within the EU and it would make sense to have actual legally enforcible EU-wide standards to ensure that they’re safe and compliant with the two plug/socket types they’re converting between.

I see a lot of multi standard adapters on sale here in Ireland and the UK that often accept the very common CEE 7/7 plug without connecting the earth, yet connect the earth on far less commonly encountered systems like Italian, Swiss and Danish plugs.

Likewise a lot of BS1363 to Schuko adapters are rated 10amps. They should be rated to carry 16amps intended to connect to a Schuko or French outlet.

You also encounter unfused adapters intended for use in Britain and Ireland which could be a fire hazard if used on rings.

Many Irish hotels now actually install at least one shuttered Schuko outlet next to the dressing table specifically to avoid this risk! (We used to use Schuko here until the 60s and its still defined as IS 180 along with BS546 so they can be used for non-general use)

All CENELEC or the European Commission would need to do is ensure that there are standardised adapters to connect between :

CEE 7/7 (used in the vast majority of EU countries)
BS1363 (used in 4 EU countries – UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus)
Italian – only used in Italy
Danish – only used in Denmark.
We would probably need to include the Swiss standard too as they’re in the EEA.

Most of the risks I’ve seen have been caused by grey market, unregulated international adaptors.

Also, I think BS1363 should perhaps be given an EN standard number to make it the second EU standard plug and socket system as it’s used in 4 member states and it would prevent dodgy adapters and plugs being imported via other EU countries as the BS1363 system would be an EU standard.

It’s also a widely available, solid, fused,polarosed alternative that could be used by anyone needing an incompatible connector – for example to prevent misuse of UPS circuits in IT environments.

The Italian and Danish systems only get used in their home markets so it’s possibly not as necessary for those.

Overall, I think both BS1363 and Schuko / French CEE 7 are decent systems as long as they’re modern installations complying with their respective regulatory codes.

It’s a shame though that Europe didn’t come up with a smaller, neater, robust, finger-safe, polarised plug and socket system making use of modern materials in the 1960s to replace these old systems.

Both Schuko and BS1363 are too bulky and neither is as good as it could be. They’re really 1920s-1940s designs that reflect the need to use moulded Bakelite rather than modern plastics and injection moulding.

The US system is also a very old design and even worse – it sparks, its got exposed pins, it falls out etc etc..

In an ideal world we’d probably all be using something more like an enhanced, shuttered version of the IEC Kettle Lead style plugs or something like that.

However, we’re stuck with what we have and I guess the most important thing in Europe is to ensure they’re safely interoperable.

I think you could also look at installing IEC connectors by default on all appliances to allow easy cable swapping. My recently purchased Bosch dishwasher had one. There’s a 16amp IEC connector with a snap in fitting that, once inserted locks into place and can only be removed with a screwdriver.

So Bosch can just include a UK/IRL cable, a CEE 7 cable or a Italian or Danish one etc without any complex manufacturing overheads.

Systems like this would make a lot of sense as you’d make the single market a genuine single market for appliances.

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wavechange

David – BS 1363 plugs are often criticised for their size. Part of the problem is that the design predates the sleeving of the L and N pins, so little fingers had to be kept at a distance. We have had sleeved pins and better quality plastics for decades, so perhaps it is time to change the standard to permit approval of more compact plugs.

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David

That’s also why Schuko / French plugs were big. The round plug body fits exactly into the recessed socket which makes it impossible to touch the pins on their way in/out and eliminated the need to sheath them. Actually, given the materials available when those standards were developed in the 1920s it was probably the only possible way of doing it. It’s quite a clever system though.

The other advantage is that you can also design the socket to make contact with nearly the full length of the pin. BS1363 has to ensure only the tops of the pins make contact so that the pins are only energised when the plug is nearly fully inserted.

The CEE 7/16 ‘Europlug’ was introduced in the 1960s to allow all the emerging small appliances to have small plugs and to minimise incompatibilities with Italy, Switzerland and Denmark. Some countries briefly allowed an unsheathed version of it which were illegal in other countries. These predate the CEE 7 standard and are obsolete for decades.

It’s only generally available as a prefitted moulded plug and is flat and has two more than half sheathed pins that are springy and angled very slight inwards. It’s rated 2.5 amps in normal use but must be able to withstand a brief fault of up to 20amps to allow the fuse or breaker to activate.

This is designed to fit all CEE 7/4 (Schuko) and CEE 7/5 (French) as well as Italian, Danish, Swiss and also UK shaver sockets.

The slightly inward angled, springy pins are a deliberate design to improve grip as older Schuko sockets hold the plug place with the earth clips at top and bottom, not really relying on the pins.

I think the UK and Ireland have reduced the requirements for huge plug faces though.

Apple for example now uses a very, very slim and neat version of BS1363 on all of their computers. There’s also ‘Thin Plug’ which is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a UK/IRL version of Europlug. It has fuse and a folding plastic ‘earth’ pin to operate the shutters. When folded down it’s not all that much bigger than a continental 2.5 amp plug.
This is now approved to BS1363 so, perhaps we might finally start to see some less bulky plugs that don’t wreak havoc with small laptop bags!

Also many continental countries have followed the UK by making shutters compulsory. They’re required in France and Belgium and seem to be in the Nordic countries too. Italy has also required them for a very long time on their 3-pin system.

It’s something that should be made compulsory Europe-wide.

In general harmonised EU regulations are taking best practice from various systems and spreading it Europe-wide. It’s just a very slow process.

Shutters were originally a UK innovation, sheathed pins were an Italian one. The industrial plug adopted as a EU and IEC standard also was derrived from an older system used in the UK. There are lots of others that are attributable to other countries national standards too. Modern rail mounted modular fuse boards/consumer units are a German DIN standard originally as are many wiring practices, especially in industrial systems.

The IP rating system for ingress protection is French originally.

I think though this kind of best practice combine the best bits of all the national systems.

Its just a shame that we didn’t manage to come up with a harmonised plug decades ago. It’s a bit ridiculous to have so many parallel standards when we all use the same voltage, frequency and have common CE technical standards for everything else to do with electrical systems.

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wavechange

I’m not familiar with the Apple plug you have mentioned, David. The USB adaptor supplied with iPhones is thin but the minimum distance between the edge and the L and N pins is very similar to that on my 1950s brown bakelite plug. The same applies with Apple laptop power supplies, which have quite a chunky UK fused adaptor that clips on to the power supply. I have not seen the ‘Thin Plug’ but I believe that this conforms to the same spacing. Unless there is a good reason to maintain this spacing it’s time to downsize BS 1363 plugs.

I am not optimistic about achieving international standards in the foreseeable future but from what you and others have said there is a very strong case for designing safer adapters for those who travel between countries. I think there is a good case for fused adapters.

A UK shaver or rechargeable toothbrush would be protected by a 1 amp plug fuse or by some other means when used with bathroom shaver socket incorporating an isolation transformer. What circuit breaker or fuse would protect a shaver or other small electrical item fitted with a Europlug?

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David

Unfortunately, the 1 amp fuse in the shaver adapter is fairly pointless from a personal protection point of view. It’s basically a throwback to the IEE or BS regulations that seemed to be very fixated on the notion that there was a huge risk with flexible cords busting into flames. In reality, the bigger risk is electric shock. 1 amp is potentially lethal.

There’s no evidence of any issues with Schuko, Europlug or North American NEMA unfused plugs being any more dangerous than their UK counterparts due to fusing arrangements.

When you’re using your shaver or toothbrush on the continent or in the USA you’ll be plugging it into an RCD protected socket.

The bathroom isolation transformer was just a way of avoiding shock risks in an era before reliable RCDs. They were common in some continental countries, the US and Australia and NZ decades ago but have been replaced by simple sockets protected by 30mA or even 10mA RCDs

For some reason the UK wiring regulations were very slow to mandate RCDs and have gone from a situation where they weren’t required on sockets to requiring them on every circuit.

In Ireland for example, RCD protection on sockets, Esther heating etc has been required since the late 70s. That’s been extended in recent revisions of the regs. Similar rules would have applied in most continental countries.

I would guess that the lack of mandatory RCD protection until recently kept the requirement for the isolation transformer in bathrooms.

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wavechange

I think we are going to have to differ over the value of small fuses, David. I’ve seen plenty of evidence that small fuses can afford significant protection to small items of equipment when a fault has occurred or water has entered. In my experience, small fuses blow without much ceremony. There is no doubt that electrical faults are a significant cause of fires but the evidence of what has gone wrong is often destroyed in the fire.

I accept that fuses will give no protection against electric shock and look forward to RCDs being used in every home.

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Scott

Or even better – RCBOs. This means that a fault in one circuit does not bring down the whole power supply. I have nine of these (reflecting the legacy wiring scheme). Initially, the electrician thought this was excessive for a flat. However, once he found the cost was lower than he expected he agreed it was the ‘way to go’.

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socketman

Wow, this got busy when I turned my back!

David wrote: “One thing Which? could do is lobby for regulations that would cover adaptors.” I think that this is an excellent idea, and there are some changes to either the BS 1363 standard or the regulations (British and/or Irish) which should be made as well, but I would like to come back to that in a separate post, first I’d like to comment on some of the recent posts.

I think we are actually wasting our time comparing BS 1363 with other standards, David was absolutely right in suggesting that countries are not going to change their standard plug type, so debating the relative merits is pointless. Let’s concentrate on what can make a very good, but imperfect, system, BS 1363, even better.

The earlier reference to figure 8 connectors being unpolarized is not significant, the class 2 devices on which they are used do not represent a safety risk, but that does not mean that other devices are safe to use with unpolarized connectors. And let’s not get bogged down with differences in earthing conventions, it just confuses the issue. It is right that the Neutral should not be assumed to be safe, which is why we should always remember that, just like the Line, it is a live part. Referring Line and Neutral as Live and Neutral is really bad practice and must be discouraged.

And let’s not go down the road of thinking that RCDs protect everything. A child using both hands to pull out a Schuko plug from a non-recessed socket is in real peril of touching Line with one hand and Neutral with the other, this would probably result in electrocution because, in the absence of earth leakage, there will be no residual current to operate the breaker. RCDs are a great idea, but the first objective must always be to prevent contact with live parts at all.

It is also not helpful to imply that, because the contact is designed to be made only with the end of the BSS 1363 pin that is in some way bad, the contact must be sufficient to carry the current required of it, and must be proved as such in type testing. The use of flat pins means that the pin is usually in contact with a significant flat area on one side of the socket contact , and a lesser area of the resilient sprung part on the other, not a “small surface area”. This is typically a much better arrangement than the contact which can be achieved between a solid round pin and a curved resilient contact. The method which the Europlug uses to improve contact in sockets designed for larger pins is an appalling bodge and very unsatisfactory.

If there is insufficient contact between the fuse and its holder then the plug is non-compliant, this is a compliance issue rather than a fault in the standard which requires that “the fuse link cannot be left in inadequate contact”.

Regarding fuse values, the requirements document, Post-War Building Studies No. 11, Electrical Installations included the recommendation for fuses of 13A or 3A. The original BS 1363;1947 specified fuse ratings of 3 A, 7 A and 13 A. The current standard specifies 3A (5A in non-rewireable plugs intended for use with high inrush devices) as the maximum value for 0.5mm^2 flexible cord and 13A as the maximum values for larger flexible cords. It is quite wrong to suggest that there has been any significant change in the fusing arrangements. BS 1362 allows any value of fuse up to the maximum of 13A, but specifies the preferred values for plugs (3A and 13A) in greater detail.

It is quite unreasonable to dismiss the 1A fuse in a shaver adaptor as pointless, shavers often use very light flex and do require protection for the cord. No fuse is a protection against electric shock, nor are the intended to be. Bathroom shaver sockets must be current limited (not necessarily by fuse) and have a maximum output of 50VA.

Regarding the EN standards, as far as I know, the only EN standard for plugs is EN 50075, the 2.5A Europlug, all other domestic plugs and sockets are specified by National Standards, not EN, so in that respect Schuko is in the same boat as BS 1363.

The minimum distance from any part of the L or N pin to the periphery of a BS 1363 plug is 9.5mm which ensures that not only are fingers kept well away but that the socket apertures are fully protected when the shutters are open and the plugs partially inserted. I would be amazed if that were to be relaxed, however it is not the major factor in the size of the plug (that is the pin geometry). Conventional plugs are now produced with a body thickness of only 15mm compared to the more traditional 25mm. The folding ThinPlug maintains the 9.5mm pin to periphery dimension (worth noting that both ThinPlug and SlimPlug are not approved to BS 1363 as such, but to a combination of BS 1363 and dedicated standards for each type developed by ASTA, the regulations allow such innovations providing it can be shown that they provide equivalent safety. Both plugs are approved only for use in non-rewireable form as part of C7 cordsets.

Sleeved pins were in use in some UK plugs (both BS 1363 and BS 546) well before they became a BS 1363 requirement.

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wavechange

Thanks. I have no knowledge of overseas electrical systems but it looks as if a shaver could be plugged into a socket protected only by a 16 amp circuit breaker or a fuse with a similar rating. I do hope I am wrong.

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wavechange

Socketman – You are keen that we should use the term Line rather than the much more commonly used term ‘Live’. As I have said before, we don’t need confusion when dealing with mains voltage. My suggestion is that we refer to L and N, and that will avoid confusion.

I don’t know how mains voltage became officially referred to as ‘low voltage’, but fortunately the public rarely meets this term. Politely I would say that this is counter-intuitive.

Someone decided that the wires in flexible cables should be coloured red, black and green, oblivious to the fact that red/green colour blindness is fairly common, particularly among males. Thankfully we have moved to a more sensible colour code, but that took years.

Three-phase supplies used to use red, yellow and blue in the UK, but thanks to the EU we now have brown, black and grey, I believe. Commonsense suggests that the more dangerous cables should be brightly coloured. In domestic wiring, blue should not bite but in three-phase supplies it definitely will.

3 amp plug fuses used to be blue and now they are red. Apart from 3 and 13 amp fuses, all other ratings are coloured black, though they originally had a distinctive colour. We cannot blame the EU for this but it looks like a mission to cause confusion or fix what did not require fixing.

We have had shuttered plugs since before I was born, which is great, yet we allow mains leads with unshuttered sockets, and lamp holders that children and adults can poke their fingers into.

Unfused mains adapters are still on sale, as pointed out by David. Why has sale of these potentially dangerous items not been banned decades ago.

I am not happy about those who make decisions that could affect safety.

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socketman

You are correct.

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socketman

Sorry, forgetting that the response above would not appear below the statement to which it refers. Wavechange is correct in his assumption that in “overseas electrical systems it looks as if a shaver could be plugged into a socket protected only by a 16 amp circuit breaker or a fuse with a similar rating.”

I do not propose to make any further comment on Wavechange’s desire for the fuse colours to be different than they are, or his reluctance to continue with the use of Live when referring specifically to Line.

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David

In Europe (as well as Australia, NZ and almost anywhere except the UK and Ireland) you connect all appliances to a 16amp socket which is connected via a 30mA RCD. That includes sockets in bathrooms.

In most countries, other than the UK and Ireland, since the introduction of RCDs in the 1970s bathroom sockets are just normal sockets with RCD protection. The older type of isolation transformer sockets were used in quite a few countries but have disappeared since RCDs became ubiquitous.

Most European countries (including Ireland) have had RCD protection on all sockets for quite a long time now (over 35 years). It’s a relatively new concept in the UK, so that might explain some of the extreme restrictions around bathrooms.

UK wiring regulations went from not requiring RCDs at all to requiring them on every circuit which is quite a huge move forward in my opinion. It’s really improved electrical safety and it’s a very comprehensive RCD regime.

This is a typical French installation as per their specs: http://leniddecastors.free.fr/wp-content/uploads/Tableau-electrique.jpg

Irish installations would also have a similar layout to that, with a LOT more final circuits than a typical UK board. For example, here in my house which is a 4-bedroom fairly large house, there are about 25 MCBs and 3 RCDs.

The UK ring circuit setup allows you to load a lot more sockets onto far fewer circuits. Ireland tends to be a hybrid of the UK and continental wiring practices so we’ve fused plugs, radials and RCDs.

Just out of curiosity I had a browse through European fire statistics.
They don’t follow by plug and socket type –

The Netherlands rates as having the lowest number of house fires, followed by Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Sweden etc. The UK ranks well (slightly more fires per capita than France and Ireland but not that much)

Fire deaths per million habitants weren’t available for all countries but:

In order of safety: Netherlands (very low 4.3 per million) then it steps up slightly to Germany (5.3), Austria (5.5), Slovenia, Sweden, Slovakia, Ireland, France, UK (all quite close together) (all under 10)

(The United States would rank quite poorly compared to this with 14.9 fire deaths per million)

Then a big jump to Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Bulgaria (all similar). (under 15)
Hungary and Finland (surprisingly) and about twice as high as the previous group. (over 15 but under 20)

then an ENORMOUS jump to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. (over 50!)

To me it would seem that the risk of fire death in general is quite low in a population of 507,416,607 only approximately 8000 people died in fires in 2004 for example.

Also, overall in developed countries the risk of being killed by electric shock is absolutely tiny. You’re hundreds of times more likely to be killed by a car, and thousands of times more likely to be injured by one than by an electrical appliance or fitting.

I checked stats for the UK, Ireland, and a few European countries as well as the US.

In Ireland for example, the number of electrical accidents is between 0 and 4 per year throughout the 2000s. It was about twice as high during the 1950s-70s, so I think the sudden and dramatic drop off in the late 80s and 90s was about increasingly widespread RCD installation as older wiring disappeared.

http://etci.ie/accidents/tables.html

Also, most accidents seem to occur outside of domestic / office locations. They’re primarily contact with overhead lines and construction site accidents. That trend seems to hold true for any of the stats I’ve looked at.

So, overall one would really have to conclude that in Europe and North America, unless you’re climbing power lines, or doing something very dangerous, you’re extremely unlikely to be killed by electrocution.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t continue to take precautions. I just think when you analyse the actual facts about European and UK electrical systems, they’re both EXTREMELY safe, provided that they’re installed correctly and are not ancient installations!

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socketman

This is my initial suggested list of improvements needed to both the BS 1363 standard, and the Plugs and Sockets Regulations, it includes suggestions already made by others. In addition to such improvements it is also necessary that there be a greater effort made to educate the public on the dangers of sub-standard electrical equipment, and how to protect themselves.

I have divided it into plugs, sockets and adaptors. I have also included some notes on the need to regulate on-line sales more effectively.

Plugs (and other devices with pins intended to fit into BS 1363 sockets):

P1) Require that all devices intended to insert into BS 1363 sockets should conform to the pin dimensions (size and disposition) of a BS 1363 plug. (Any device which does not conform may damage a socket, eg oversize pins can stretch socket contacts, and incorrectly shaped pins can damage shutter operating mechanisms, especially those mechanisms which differ from the basic earth pin operation.) Such a regulation would encompass socket covers (none of which currently comply), nightlights, chargers etc.

Sockets:

S1) BS 1363 sockets with shutters which are operated by the simultaneous insertion of all three pins are now available from at least three manufacturers, MK (Logic Plus range) Hager (Solysta range) and Legrand (Synergy range). These sockets are superior in terms of their resistance to tampering, and therefore much safer. This type of socket should now become the only type allowed for installations in domestic premises, and anywhere with public access (shops, hotels etc). Clearly there will be many millions of existing installations which are operated by the earth pin alone, but that is no reason not to upgrade the regulations for all new and replacement installations.

S2) BS 1363 includes a requirement (13.10) that for a socket where the shutters are operated by the simultaneous insertion of the current carrying pins, the distance between the lower edge of the socket and the pin apertures should be a minimum of 18mm (the space between the live pins and earth is 16mm), this ensures that it is not possible to insert a plug into the socket upside down (which would result in switching line and neutral, and having no earth). However, the minimum distance between the earth pin and the upper edge of the socket is only 9.5mm, thus it is possible in some sockets to insert an inverted plug into only the earth which opens the shutters and leaves the live contacts accessible. In practice this does not occur with normal flush mounting sockets where the actual distance is around 30mm. However, inverted insertion into the earth is possible in MOST socket extension leads and multi-way block adaptors, and in old surface mounting sockets. This is a glaring loophole in the standard which BSI has declined to remedy.

Adaptors:

A1) There should be a specific requirement that any adaptor intended for use in a BS 1363 socket should enable proper earth contact between the BS 1363 socket and any earthed plug which the adaptor will accept. The Plugs and Sockets regulation guidance states that “Travel adaptors for use in the UK (ie for connecting to a BS1363 socket outlet) are considered to be within the scope of the Regulations.” The relevant standard for such travel adaptors (ie, those whose plug part is designed for use with BS 1363 sockets) is BS 1363-3 which states in clause 10.1 “Adaptors shall be so constructed that, when inserting a plug with an earthing pin into a corresponding socket-outlet of an adaptor the earth connection is made before the current-carrying pins of the plug become live.” However, many travel adaptors which plug into BS 1363 sockets accept Schuko and French plugs, but have no facility to connect to the earthing contact. Other forms of adaptor use an ISOD (a plastic “earth” pin) to facilitate shutter opening, these adaptors typically accept earthed plugs also, but cannot make earth connection via the plastic pin! (Worth noting that ISODs are intended for use only in non-rewireable plugs supplied as part of Class 2 appliances, or Class 2 cord sets. Their only other legitimate use is in shaver adaptors.) Such dangerous adaptors of the above types are widely available in the UK, and are stocked by such otherwise reputable establishments as Boots and John Lewis amongst others.

A2) As suggested by ‘David’, BS 1363 adaptors accepting two BS 1363 plugs should be required to be fused.

On-line sales:

There also needs to be some significant improvement in the way that on-line sales are regulated. It is no good having high standards and specific plugs and sockets regulations if companies such as Amazon and eBay are permitted to bypass them by facilitating direct sales from outside of the EU, and by allowing their clients to deliberately obscure the true nature of the goods on offer. Among the measures required are:

O1) An absolute requirement to show an image of the plug attached to any mains powered product offered, together with a statement of the approval license marked on the plug.

O2) A prohibition on any mains plug, mains cable, mains charger and mains powered appliance being offered on a UK website, but supplied by direct shipment from outside the EU.

O3) Specifically for electrical goods, an end to the practice of allowing marketplace sellers on Amazon (or any other site providing a similar facility) to offer their product against an existing listing from another company, unless the offered product is a branded product IDENTICAL to that in the original listing. The current situation is that it is common for up to as many as 50 suppliers to offer against a product which has been originally listed by Amazon themselves or a marketplace seller. It is especially attractive for marketplace sellers to offer against a product which has already achieved a high level of purchaser satisfaction as indicated by the customer reviews. Amazon does not allow product reviews to reflect which seller provided the product which a customer is reviewing! A seller offering a substandard product at a lower price will pick up sales in preference to a legitimate product at a higher price. Research has shown that it is common for such items as power leads, adaptors and chargers are exploited in this way. A recent test purchase from a variety of sellers offering a product which is illustrated as a Schuko socket to BS 1363 plug adaptor resulted in: Two different products broadly meeting the expectation and providing an earthed connection, but both of which have previously shown up on the EU RAPEX system, recalled as unsafe in other jurisdictions. Three different types of adaptor (two of which came from multiple suppliers) which accepted Schuko plugs in a non-recessed universal socket with no earthing facility. Two different shaver adaptors with 1A fuses and no earthing. All of the products purchased in this test cost less than £3, most were less than £2, consumers will typically not bother to complain about the incorrect supply of such low cost items. One reviewer, who clearly received a product with a Schuko socket, complained that she had to break off the earthing clips to allow her French plug to fit! This is a crazy situation which must be tackled.

I am hoping that Which might just take an interest in this issue, and look forward to being contacted by them to discuss further.

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wavechange

I very much appreciate these positive suggestions, Socketman.

Concerning the safer designs of BS 1363 mains sockets, it concerns me that patents can make it difficult for other manufacturers to produce safer products without infringing patents. Though I generally support the patent system I believe that safety features should be excluded from patent claims, in view of public safety.

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wavechange

I have seen some examples of broken plastic pins (ISOD), but the only example I have to hand is a Uniross battery charger that I acquired a few years ago. I recall that to continue to use it, the user first plugged in the plastic pin to open the shutters, followed by the charger.

Hopefully most ISODs are made of plastic that is tough and unlikely to break or detach, but I wonder if it would be safer to have metal pins, even for Class 2 products where an Earth connection is not used.

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wavechange

I omitted to mention that the Uniross charger is marked ‘Conforms to BS1363 clause 12′.

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socketman

There have been a number of chargers removed from the market because of fragile ISODs, I don’t know if yours would be one of those. I assume that by Clause 12 they are referring to section 12 of BS 363-1 which is titled “Construction of plugs” and includes 18 clauses and numerous sub-clauses, so your guess as to what they mean is as good as mine! I share your concerns on the robustness of ISODs.

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wavechange

David – I fully agree that the introduction of RCDs in the UK has been a great step forward, though perhaps we should be moving to RCBOs as Scott has suggested. I can understand why we have 30mA RCDs when covering multiple circuits but 10mA RCBOs would be a better choice for some or all circuits to help minimise the risk of injury.

I think it is important to consider the number of fires where electrical faults have been implicated and not just fatalities. On top of this we have equipment failures that could easily have resulted in a fire. I have seen numerous examples over the years and I am not aware that a single one of them was reported. Socketman has highlighted the problem of unsafe counterfeit goods and unless we can stop the influx of such products there could be more incidents in future.

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David

I think the biggest issue at the moment is actually dangerous, counterfeit, cheap chargers getting into the EU. The fact that they’ve BS1363 or CEE 7/16 plugs isn’t really the issue, they’re just absolute rubbish and tend to catch fire / explode / fail.

Given that we’re all operating in a single EU market, I think we’re going to have to petition the European Commission to crack down much more aggressively on dodgy chargers being imported across any EU border into the single market.

Secondly, I think we need to also petition the European Commission to adopt BS1363 as a pan-EU standard so that it can be enforced on imported goods. 4 EU member states use BS1363, so it would make sense to recognise it as it’s not going to change and there is no harmonised EU alternative.

It’s also a useful 2nd alternative connector where someone doesn’t want to use CEE 7/7 plugs for some specific reason and is fully regulated.

If we have something like “EN BS1363″ (as a harmonised EU standard) then if something arrived in an airport in Frankfurt that was non-compliant it could be spotted and the importer would get the full force of German, Dutch, French (or whatever country the product landed in) law.

Likewise, the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus should be ensuring they reject any dodgy CEE 7 devices and should be able to check for compliance if they enter their ports / airports to protect our EU neighbours.

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wavechange

David – As you say, counterfeit, cheap chargers can catch fire and even explode. We can and should do everything reasonably practical to minimise the problem but I doubt that we can eliminate it. Trading Standards is hopelessly under-resourced and no-one can establish whether or not a device has adequate internal over-current protection without opening (or breaking open in the case of sealed units such as many chargers) the case.

Perhaps dangerous counterfeit products will help us appreciate that connecting small electrical goods to circuits protected only by a 16 amp circuit breaker or similarly rated fuse is not the best way affording protection.

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malcolm r

David, all goods (from toys to electrical equipment) that are subject to published EN Safety Standards are subject to CE Marking to show compliance. Only then, in theory, can these goods be distributed for sale within the EU. This only works if goods are policed and offending distributors / importers / manufacturers who CE Mark fraudulently severely penalised. It doesn’t happen. Our Trading Standards are meant to deal with this, but rarely seem to even when offending items are referred to them. How to begin to stop it? The cost of “blanket” testing to determine sub-standard goods and the manpower needed to police it would probably be prohibitive. What we need is Trading Standards to act on individual complaints where there is clearly an obvious and inherent lack of compliance and take punitive action against the importer. Only then might we deter such people from bringing dodgy goods into the UK (including Amazon through their Market Place perhaps? Some hope)

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wavechange

Malcolm – All the counterfeit goods that I have seen in recent years have been CE marked. I make a particular point of inspecting Apple power supplies, which are a prime target for counterfeiters because of the cost of replacements. I suggest that owners report the problem to Trading Standards, knowing they are unlikely to do so or achieve any action.

The Uniross power supply with the broken plastic ‘Earth’ pin I mentioned earlier today is CE marked.

Responsible companies generally take standards compliance seriously but for the counterfeiters, CE marking means nothing. In fact, I think CE marking gives a false sense of security.

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socketman

Yes, CE marking is useless. It is frequently advertised as CE approved, which is, of course, nonsense, but consumers will believe it and imagine there is some great approver in the sky who is taking care of them. As we know, in reality, if a company is prepared to manufacture junk then they are more than willing to put a CE mark on it.

The CE mark does have one useful feature though, if you see it on a BS 1363 plug you know that the plug is a counterfeit as you cannot CE mark something which does not have an EN standard, a very good reason in itself for avoiding BS 1363 becoming an EN (and let’s remember, the only mains plug to be covered by an EN is the Europlug as I mentioned earlier, there is no Schuko EN.)

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malcolm r

wavechange “All the counterfeit goods that I have seen in recent years have been CE marked”. Of course they are! But the mark is meaningless if no one bothers to police it. Perhaps it is time Which? campaigned to have trading standards take action when a fraudulent or defective item is reported to them. I do not understand how we can turn a blind eye to potentially harmful or lethal products being sold. I’d rather we got our priorities right.

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wavechange

I absolutely agree Malcolm. I would happily pay more tax if I knew that it would go towards addressing the problem.

It would be great if Which? members had the opportunity to suggest priorities of how to spend their limited funds.

I look forward to seeing the cover of a Which? magazine with a dramatic photo related to the danger of counterfeit electrical goods. I remember one cover with an iron with a melted sole plate and another with a small MPV rolling over when cornering. We need Which? being paid to produce interesting TV programmes, even if that means more of the attention-grabbing headlines that neither of us like.

Most people are blissfully unaware of the dangers of counterfeit electrical goods and we have to get the message over to as many as possible.

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malcolm r

wavechange, something I will disagree with, I’m afraid – ” We need Which? being paid to produce interesting TV programmes”. I’d rather they carried out their present remit and weren’t subjected to the inevitable populist pressures that TV would bring. I am not even happy at having allowed a best buy award to be used in advertising – a best buy often carries caveats with it that, of course, advertisers don’t mention; no best buy is best for everyone, nor is it perfect. Have Which? stick to straightforward testing and reporting – oh, and it would be nice if they responded to members comments in conversations when asked, and answered the questions members ask in emails.

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wavechange

I agree about the problems with using Which? recommendations in advertising and feel that these should feature some sort of warning to encourage people to read the relevant review. Perhaps Which? could sell individual reviews online.

I’d love to carry on as we are, safe in the knowledge that the problem of dangerous counterfeit goods will be addressed by Which? and Trading Standards but I really don’t think that this will happen.

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David

It’s a little more complex than that.

You can legitimately CE mark a plug / adaptor because it complies with the European Low Voltage Directive.

Because there’s no EN-standard for the BS1363 specifications, they are *not* covered by any CE mark.

If BS1363 had a European Harmonised Standard EN number too, you’d basically make it a criminal offence in all 28 member states to import, store or supply any device with a CE mark that had BS1363-like configuration that didn’t conform to BS1363.

It would enable other EU countries to enforce BS1363 legally.

I would think the most sensible thing would be an European Plugs/Sockets directive which would create an EN number for:

CEE 7 – Schuko / French family of connectors (de facto European standard system).
BS1363 – UK, Ireland, Malta, Cyprus.
CEI 23-50 – Italian plugs/sockets.
107-2-D1 – Danish plugs/sockets
SEV 1011 – Swiss plugs and sockets.

All the EN number would need to do is reference the CEE 7 standards, BS1363 and the 3 unique national standards.

It would also be an idea to include a requirement for adaptors that can only be removed with a tool and that are controlled by an EN standard.

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David

Just to clarify that …

You possibly can legitimately mark a BS1363 plug with a CE mark because it complies with the European Low Voltage Directive and other basic requirements around materials and environmental directives for example. In much the same way as you can mark any electrical device. There’s no specific standard for say laptop computers, yet you can slap a CE logo on it if it complies with all the relevant laws. BS1363 with sleeved pins probably fully complies with all the requirements for a CE mark.

What the mark does not tell you is that the plug’s compliant with BS1363 as that is not defined in European law at present.

The other thing is that several agencies are issuing BS1363 approvals : BSI Kitemark, ASTA diamond mark and also Nemko “N” mark.

To make it even more complex, Ireland also transposes it into Irish law as IS401 (plug) and IS411 (socket) complete with the IMEC (Irish Mark of Electrical Conformity) flash-symbol logo.

Maybe the simplest solution might be a single BS1363 standard logo that was recognised by all countries using it rather than all this transposing stuff and use of multiple approval agencies…

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wavechange

I know you are trying to be helpful David and I appreciate the need for standards, but it is public safety that concerns me most. Surely the top priority is to devote resources to stopping dangerous counterfeit goods and products that do not comply with regulations (e.g. those fitted with Europlugs – the subject of the discussion) from coming into the UK?

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David

The best work around I’ve seen so far is the converter plugs used by some manufacturers.

I’ve bought a few Sony devices that had those fitted over a CEE 7/16 Europlug.

They look like a slightly bulky BS1363 plug and the Europlug is safely contained inside.

I also bought a large lamp that had a full Schuko plug inside one of those! It worked fine, was fused but it’s quite bulky.

I wonder if were going to see more and more of this as manufacturers avoid extra costs for localisation.

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wavechange

The converter plugs are legal if fitted when the goods are sold, and are fused. If they are not fitted then there is a chance that users could do silly things like force Europlugs into BS 1363 sockets, overload shaver sockets by trying to charge laptops and goodness knows what else. Whoever decided that these must be pre-installed must have been thinking about the problems.

I regard them as something of a legitimate bodge job. A fair amount of imported electrical goods come with wired plugs and the standard of workmanship is usually high in my experience.

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socketman

David, you wrote “You can legitimately CE mark a plug / adaptor because it complies with the European Low Voltage Directive.” If you check with the relevant EU guidance you will find that neither domestic mains plugs nor domestic mains sockets are within the scope of the Low Voltage Directive, they come under the General Product Safety Directive which is not something for which CE Marking should be used. CE marking is applicable to cord sets, extension cords, universal travel adaptors, but not to simple adaptors (within one system) or simple travel adaptors (between one system and another).

It does not help to make statements which are not actually the case, it only causes confusion.

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David

On the adaptors issue, they simply should be 100% regulated by a set of standards drawn up by CENELEC (French: Comité Européen de Normalisation Électrotechnique; English: European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation).

The plugs/sockets should be completely compliant with CEE 7 for the ‘Schuko parts’ and BS1363 for the UK/IRL parts.

There shouldn’t be any need for any ambiguity about this at all. Both standards are highly developed, very safe and fully available.

I simply don’t understand why we need all these hack jobs or why they’re being tolerated.

Personally, I use a high quality BS1363 trailing socket and a high quality French CEE 7/7 plug on the other end when I travel to the continent. It’s FAR FAR more robust than an adaptor and I feel a lot safer using it!

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Em

“I use a high quality BS1363 trailing socket … ”

Agreed! I never travel without one, wire strippers and a screwdriver.

Get a decent 4-gang, switched, fused, with neon and there is never any doubt about whether something is live. I generally have a trailing flex with moulded plug for the relevant region, or I can pick one up locally in a computer store. Works in North America too – just remember to watch the voltage!

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wavechange

I prefer to use battery-operated products when abroad but have made up trailing leads for friends. Unfortunately it’s not a good solution for anyone travelling light.

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Em

I’d rather carry the weight of a trailing lead than enough batteries to power my laptop for a month. I think that might exceed my baggage allowance … :-)

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wavechange

Fair comment. But you have probably made up lots of leads, unlike those who live in a world of moulded plugs and assembled extension leads. Faced with an unfamiliar plug, I wonder how many people would connect it up correctly. Earlier this year I discovered two extension leads where L and N were crossed. One was in use as a shoreline providing for a large boat used as a floating museum.

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Scott

I would use a Martindale tester to make sure the polarity was the right way round and the earth connected (if required). Despite my earlier views on certain specific issues about Europlugs, I am very safety conscious. Part of the reason I prefer to have Europlugs on travel items is to avoid using adaptors.

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wavechange

I would like every household in the country to be given a socket tester. For use by the public, an explicit warning such as ‘Danger – do not use’ might be better than a series of lights to help identify the problem. I suggest one that tests earth loop impedance without tripping RCDs.

The number of homes with smoke alarms has increased thanks to advertising and many have been given away free.

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Scott

Now that the Conversation has moved on to electrical systems generally, has anyone encountered toroidal transformers? I read that 12 volt spotlights were more efficient than mains voltage. The electrician said electronic transformers were unreliable and recommended a toroidal transformer. Said it would outlast the building. I have one for each group of spots. So far in over five years only one bulb has ever blown. Expensive though.

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wavechange

The first domestic use of toroidal transformers, as far as I know, was in better quality amplifiers. The reason for their introduction was to minimise mains hum. I presume that they are harder to build, which is why they are more expensive.

Switched-mode power supplies (electronic transformers) are very reliable if properly designed and built with suitably rated components, but what is sold for the domestic market is sometimes poor. Overheating problems and lack of voltage spike suppression are common problems.

If halogen spotlights are lasting significantly longer than their rated life then that suggests that the transformer is delivering less than 12V under load. I doubt that 12V spotlights are more efficient, if you take into account transformer inefficiency.

Some people who have swapped their 12V halogen lamps for LEDs to achieve longer life and much reduced running costs have experienced DAB and FM radio interference. There is a long-running Conversation about this problem. One way of tackling this problem is to use a transformer rather than an electronic power supply. Mains voltage LEDs seem to cause less radio interference.

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malcolm r

Scott, you are correct in stating that low voltage halogen (incandescent) lamps are more efficient than mains voltage. They have thicker, shorter filaments (low voltage, high current) than mains voltage and are more compact and thermally efficient. There is, from memory, a problem making the coil of mains voltage filaments too compact because of the possibility of arcing over.
Electronic transformers, if sourced from a decent maker, will be more efficient and give added protection that wire-wound cannot do, although the latter should last forever providing it is not allowed to overheat – this degrades the winding insulation.

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wavechange

Malcolm – Are you taking into account the power losses in the electronic or transformer power supply in saying that 12V halogen lamps are more efficient than mains ones?

12V halogen lamps are undoubtedly better at resisting vibration damage when lit.

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malcolm r

wavechange, no – I was making the general point that LV filament lamps are significantly more efficient tham their MV counterparts – the filament is thermally more efficient. The overall efficiency when including the transformer will depend on a number of factors – the quality of the transformer, of course, its design and whether it operates near capacity. I understand the better designs use FETs rather than bipolar transistors and achieve a full load efficiency of 0.95. They will also reduce output if they accidentally overheat, rather than switching off (wire-wound generally include a thermal switch for protection). As with everything the key is to buy good quality components; I’d stick with the well-known major manufacturers – GE, Philips, Tridonic, Osram for example.

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wavechange

You are right about the efficiency of modern electronic power supplies and FETs made an appearance long ago in high efficiency SMPS and inverters. I doubt that a traditional transformer operating at 50Hz would be any match, but moving from incandescent lamps to LEDs is obviously the main saving.

12V LED lamps running from electronic supplies do seem to be a problem for some radio listeners, and I’ve just been speaking to a friend who is having interference problem with certain types of 12V LEDs even when powered from batteries.

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socketman

Does anyone think that Which? is still interested in the subject of plugs and safety, or have they given up because it is just too difficult? Especially when it comes to asking Amazon to act responsibly!

The page “Which? campaigns” proclaims “We campaign to make people’s lives fairer, simpler and safer. With your support, we get heard.” However, take a look at the campaigns on that page and none of the current ones are about physical safety. You have to look in the history section at the bottom, and the most recent mentioned is the 1991 seat belt regulations.

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wavechange

We have not had a Which? campaign or much coverage in the magazine, have we. I don’t think it is a priority, since more people are concerned about a small rise in their fixed price phone contract or how we are being treated unfairly over energy supply. I very much support Which? over these campaigns but feel that public safety is more important.

You are only looking at a selection of Which? campaigns, but I agree that safety should take more priority. One safety-related issue that interests me is banning drivers from using mobile phones in a moving car.

As subscribers, I think we deserve to have an insight into how Which? decides to spend our money and maybe even the opportunity to influence how this happens.

For the time being I see Which? conversation as a means of having interesting discussions about topics of interest. Social networking for grown-ups perhaps.

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malcolm r

wavechange, those who subscribe to Which? are actually members of the Consumers Association – which gives us rights to become involved in the governance, primarily through election to council.
I do think these conversations can contribute to the basis of Which?’s approach to consumer issues if sufficient consensus is apparent. It probably means directly approaching Which? and using this evidence. However,there seems to be minimal success in some areas – e.g. product durability; I live in hope and am being persistent.
What concerns me about some conversations is that an article appears in Which? magazine, using the introduction to a conversation, at the same time as the conversation is launched – no chance for contributors views to be taken into account there then! And Which?, in some peoples’ eyes, do not always put a logical or impartial view forward, so consumer input is justified to give balance.

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wavechange

I know Malcolm. I expect you spotted that one of our regular contributors sought election to council some months ago.

People with knowledge of a topic are invited to introduce Conversations, though I’m disappointed that so few take an active part in the discussion. Perhaps Socketman could be invited to do this and I’m fairly sure it would be a rewarding discussion with every reasonable question answered. Unfortunately a poll might reveal that the public find it confusing to refer to Live as Line and Neutral parts as live. :-)

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socketman

Wavechange, I know that for years it has been common, but erroneous, practice to assume that ‘live’ refers exclusively to the ‘line’ connection, but that does not make it right! In UK, European and US electrical practice the actual meaning of ‘live’ is consistent. The definition as it appears in IEC 60884-1 “Plugs and socket-outlets for household and similar purposes” is as follows:
“live part – conductor or conductive part intended to be energized in normal use, including a neutral conductor, but, by convention, not a PEN conductor”

I know of no other simple term that means the same thing, so if you insist on using ‘live’ to refer only to a conductor or part connected to ‘line’ there is a fundamental problem in having a meaningful conversation. We all need to speak the same, correct, language.

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David

I think what we’re really facing here is a dramatic change in the way retail and distribution works. Until relatively recently, the supply of electrical goods and most technical products was controlled by wholesalers and the traditional distribution channels.

CE marking and self-regulation were all well and good in that kind of environment where you could assume that there was some degree of traceability on most products and that most distributors were interested in preserving their reputation and ensuring they provided top quality products.

What’s happening now is that we’re seeing a globalisation and democratisation of retail where tiny suppliers can interact directly with customers online almost anonymously via big online market sites like Ebay, Amazon and others.

I think Which and other consumer organisations around Europe need to start campaigning to ensure that this doesn’t mean a race to the bottom with technical standards. I don’t honestly think our regulators are keeping up with developments.

Appliances arriving with Europlugs is only the tip of the iceberg. At least those appliances are generally quite safe other than the plug arrangement being incompatible. However, we’re seeing a lot of substandard and counterfeit devices reaching the market too and from what I can see the enforcement and inspection regimes are totally incapable of preventing it.

The only way forward on this I think is to place responsibility on the online retailers. At the end of the day, they are competing ruthlessly with our physical retailers anyway and in some ways undermining our local economies, so I don’t really feel they should be allowed to just operate in a legal limbo either.

What I’d propose is that the online retailers are levied a small fee on certain potentially dangerous goods i.e. electronics, electrical, food products, tools, etc.. anything that’s subject to CE marking or other standards conformity requirements.

That small levy would be used to fund UK Trading Standards and its counterparts in other EU countries to do random checks, audits, test purchases etc etc and to actively enforce the law.

I think if we continue the way we’re going our safety regulations in the UK and Europe which, to date have been very high and have protected us from a lot of fires and accidents, will become totally worthless!

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malcolm r

David, I agree with the sentiments. CE Marking has always been open to abuse – not because it is based on self-certifying by a manufacturer (reputable ones will do the proper testing and obey the rules) but because anyone wishing to defraud the market will apply the mark whether or not their product complies. No different to applying, e.g. a BSI Kite Mark fraudulently.
The fault lies in the lack of adequate policing. Until this is done extensively, and severe penalties imposed on those who contravene (either EU manufacturers or EU importers) when they are caught, we will make no progress. It would be impossible to routinely check all products – there are far too many and the tests quite consuming of facilities. However, trade associations have their own interests to protect and if only Trading Standards would respond to their reports of failures we might start to get somewhere. In the lighting industry products were reported as non-compliant but I do not recall any major penalties being exacted upon the negligent or deceitful importers – c’est la vie (or maybe la mort?)

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David

Malcom R:

I think when it comes to safety-critical items like electrical products and gas appliances, we need to adopt the same kind of safety procedures that are applied in other safety-critical areas like the food industry.

I work in the food sector (in a product development / marketing role) and we are subject to extremely strict levels of control and testing. While things can go wrong, when they do they tend to be caught very rapidly because the Food Safety Authority over here in Ireland carries out very serious policing of the industry and penalties for breeches are severe.

Farms are inspected, manufacturing and storage facilities are inspected regularly and randomly, we have to be able to prove that staff are adequately trained, meat products are subject to DNA testing and audit trails have to be maintained. All products are subject to random sampling and testing and we have to prove that we’ve our own internal procedures to prevent any kind of contamination or adulteration occurring in the first place.

Failure to comply with that can land you in prison or with huge fines.

It was that intense inspection regime that uncovered the horse burger scandal for example. If it wasn’t for the Irish authorities initially doing random DNA tests that wouldn’t have been discovered and it ultimately unravelled a huge Europe-wide scandal.

No system can be 100% perfect nor can any system catch absolutely every breech, but it does create a culture of safety and in general you can be very confident in a system like that.

I really don’t see why the electrical and electronics sector is being allowed to operate as the ‘wild west’ when it comes to things like this. These products have to be safe and trustworthy just like food and drink. People need to be able to know that if they buy a mobile phone charger, it’s not going to just spontaneously combust.

The supply chain’s loosening up all the time and we cannot control it, but we can inspect distributors, conduct random audits, checks and do sample purchases online.

If the penalties are severe enough and the inspection regime widespread and random enough to catch quite a good deal of problems, the standards will go back up.

It simply has to change. If the culture of safety and inspections becomes too lax, it’s a slippery slope to complete chaos and I fear that’s where were headed.

Sorry if this sounds a bit ‘political’, but I really think this is time time when we need to really nip what’s going to be a huge problem in the bud before it gets completely out of hand!

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wavechange

I’m with David on this. We really do need to take decisive action, and do so promptly.

Self-assessment is a formative assessment and is helpful when manufacturers checking that their products comply with appropriate regulations. Any worthwhile assessment must be carried out by an independent body. Universities don’t let students decide what degree they should be awarded and driving examiners do not let candidates decide if they are fit to drive.

The only practical way to fund independent testing is by manufacturers to pay, which would be passed on to customers. So be it. One benefit would be that it could discourage manufacturers from redesigning simple products – such as phone chargers – that really don’t need to be changed.

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malcolm r

David, I think we are of the same mind on this. The question I have is one of practicality – just look at the vast number of products available that require CE Marking – far too many to check. We need targetted audits to make it manageable. If all the organisations involved in these products contributed to pointing to deficient examples and Trading Standards were in a position to test and act, we’d start getting somewhere. It needs funding – trade associations could levy their members (it is in their interests to exclude defective products), and also retailers.
Wavechange – we still see false degrees! A senior police officer was recently sacked for this. There are simply too many products and too few test houses to police every product, and anyway as most come from outside the EU the scope for fraudulent test certificates is just as big as false CE Marking. My view remains – target suspicious products and importers and penalise them severley to make it not worth their while. We can do nothing about personal imports, but we should do something about “sponsored” imports such as through Amazon’s 3rd party suppliers. If we can’t even begin to deal with that obvious problem then what hope is there? Perhaps Amazon are just too big and important for them to be tackled?

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socketman

Malcolm, one point on your comment “CE Marking has always been open to abuse – not because it is based on self-certifying by a manufacturer (reputable ones will do the proper testing and obey the rules) but because anyone wishing to defraud the market will apply the mark whether or not their product complies. No different to applying, e.g. a BSI Kite Mark fraudulently.” There is one important difference, the Kitemark, ASTA Diamond Mark and Nemko N Mark are all accompanied by license numbers which gives the opportunity to check to at least ensure that the particular manufacture is entitled to that mark. BSI and ASTA-Intertek can both be checked online by anyone, you need to put a specific question to Nemko, but they do answer. Of course, if the problem is a direct counterfeit copy that is still a problem, but the body which awards the mark will be very interested in that. There is no way you can check whether a CE mark has anything behind it.

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socketman

David, Malcolm, Wavechange,you are all right on this, it really does need attention and a good kick from an organisation with clout to get the ball rolling.

Electrical Safety First (formerly Electrical Safety Council) does some good work, but has huge blind spots, possibly because of its industry funding sources. It will highlight transgressions of existing standards and regulations, but puts on the blinkers when it comes to identifying issues that need new controls. (An example, in 2010 they ran tests on six 4-gang extension sockets against the standards, but ignored, without comment, the fact that only one of those had sufficient space between the earth apertures and the edge of the socket to prevent the inverted insertion of plugs into the earth only, thus rendering the shutters useless. That fault is not covered by the standard.)

RoSPA is useless when it comes to product safety issues, they used to have in-house expertise, but now rely on part time assistance from a trading standards officer who is an expert on car safety seats etc, but knows nothing about electrics. They set their own agenda and are deaf to calls from anyone who wants them to take an interest in anything else. Only when statistics, or press campaigns, are screaming at them will they look up from their navels. I quote the Deputy Chief Executive who wrote the following to me: “RoSPA’s position won’t change unless evidence suggests that (…products…) have suddenly started to seriously harm hundreds of children every year.”

So, I think that leaves Which? as the best hope, but are they up for the challenge? Is there anyone there?

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malcolm r

Of course – we have a Consumer Affairs Minister. Why don’t we bring this to her attention – she is. I believe, responsible for Trading Standrads. That should get the ball rolling……..

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socketman

It does not work for an individual to address the minister directly (it just goes straight to a civil servant who will reply that it is a trading standards responsibility. Been there, done that, repeatedly). You need to write to your constituency MP who can approach the minister, and will get a reply from the minister, but it will still be just what the civil servants say above her signature. However, the more people who write about such matters the more MPs become aware that there is a problem, and eventually it might just get proper attention. And we should remember that the minister is a new mum, so the child safety issue might just grab her attention! Continuous agitation is what it takes, and Which? has a louder voice.

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malcolm r

socketman, I apologise for introducing a note of sarcasm into this serious conversation. I am cynical about government’s ability. It needs a representative body to make any headway with a minister – or with the EU. Which? should be one of those voices. I think some are concerned that it does not tackle these serious issues.

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wavechange

Patrick – We know you’re there. :-)

After raising an important safety issue, Which? seems to have pulled the plug. Please could you encourage your colleagues to put electrical safety and counterfeit electrical goods on the agenda.

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socketman

I would really like to make direct contact with those of you who are passionate about this subject. I have a special request for Scott.
Sending a message to bs1363plug at a well known search related webmail service would be a good place to start.

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Scott

To all – just to set the record straight, I agree with all efforts to improve electrical safety and welcome the way this discussion has developed and evolved. My ‘disagreement’ at the outset was that I believe there should be a safe way to assimilate appliances fitted with Europlugs into the UK system. However, I accept this is a minority view here and that I lack the technical expertise to speak with authority. I hope this comment will not be taken as an attempt to reignite the argument since I think we all fundamentally agree, with me holding a different perspective on this particular aspect.

To Socketman – I shall see what I can do to follow the cryptic instruction :-)

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socketman

Thanks to Scott for following the clue and making direct contact. It would be good to hear from all the regular contributors who want to make a difference on electrical safety.

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Scott

There are now three of us in contact. If anyone else would like to continue the discussion elsewhere, perhaps in a more proactive way, please make contact. When I first read Socketman’s request I was puzzled then I thought gee I get it now!

Hi all, thanks for all your comments. Also it’s worth remembering that not all of the issues we campaign on are public campaigns that ask for petition signatures. We work on a lot of issues behind the scenes. I’m going to share your comments with others.

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wavechange

Thanks Patrick. In the meantime, perhaps we could have a Conversation to raise awareness of electrical safety issues and engage with others who may be interested. A photo showing a phone charger plug on fire could attract attention to the discussion, and it would be good to have some input from any of your colleagues who have experienced problems with dangerous counterfeit electrical products.

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Scott

This is a good idea because the present Conversation (and related Two-pin plugs – it’s just not British) have suffered what I believe the US military refers to as mission creep. A new start may also attract new contributors who think the present Conversations have become too esoteric.

Thanks both, would you like to write a pitch on what the Convo would cover, what issues should be explored, what questions would be asked, what examples would be needed or research that should be cited? Feel free to work together on it here – you each now own this debate, so use it as you’d like. I’ll have a look over your pitches tomorrow :)

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Scott

I think Socketman, Malcolm and David need to be involved. Tomorrow is too soon !!! This requires careful consideration.

OK Scott. Remember it’s just a pitch for another Convo, so it can’t cover everything in the introduction to the full debate that will follow. How’s Friday sound?

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Scott

I think it may be a collective submission, probably after the Commonwealth Games are over !!!

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wavechange

I’m not quite sure how a collective submission would work but it would be very useful to agree on whether to go for a follow-up Conversation, in the same way as we have for topics such as mobile phone companies pushing up prices mid-contract, energy supply, etc, or go for another topic on electrical safety and legislation.

My thoughts are to focus on dangerous counterfeit electrical products on the basis that everyone can understand the danger of something that catches fire or explodes (e.g. dodgy phone chargers) whereas I doubt that most people would understand why counterfeit mains plugs, for example, can be dangerous.

Any thoughts folks?

How are we getting on with this pitch? Do we have an idea what this post might cover? :)

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wavechange

Sorry for the delay Patrick. As Scott has mentioned, three of us are working on this. We need a topic that will encourage others to join the debate.

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socketman

Patrick, we are progressing this, how shall we provide you with the text and picture? Will you make direct contact?

Hi Socketman, it sounds like you’re writing the actual article? I was only expecting a pitch, but sounds good either way :) You can send it to me at conversation dot comments at which dot co dot uk

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socketman

Thanks Patrick, we will send you something as soon as we have a consensus, which I think is close.

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socketman

Patrick, did you receive it?

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Em

Well done everyone for keeping this convo rolling and Patrick Steen for responding.

I don’t know if this has been picked up already, but I expect something similar to happen in the UK before too long:

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/faulty-usb-phone-charger-blamed-for-sheryl-aldeguers-death-20140627-zsoc8.html

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wavechange

Thanks Em. This is a good example of the problem we face, and one that anyone can relate to. I’m not sure about the technical explanation for the electrocution.

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socketman

Here are some examples closer to home:
http://www.bs1363.org.uk/html/chargers.html

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John Ward

This response isn’t about dodgy two-pin plugs but dangerous electrical products sold on-line and it might be relevant to the new Conversation that Socketman, Wavechange and Scott are putting together. Earlier today I was trying to see what sort of outdoor floodlights were available. On the Amazon website there were quite a number of small LED floodlights for sale through various marketplace retailers at remarkably low prices, which aroused my suspicions. Reading several customer reviews it was apparent that a large number of these lights had been supplied into the UK with totally inadequate earthing. Several reviewers explained that they had opened the unit in order to replace the very short connection cable with a longer one [so as to avoid the need for an exterior junction box] and discovered that the earth conductor in the three-core cable originally fitted was entirely disconnected from the metal casing and was just loose inside the unit. One reviewer reported that there were a number of screws to which the earth lead could have been attached but they were all coated with a sealant making them impossible to open. Obviously a technically capable and competent person could have made a satisfactory earth termination to the casing and ensured full continuity but, in the first place, it was only by chance that this defect was discovered when there was a need to replace the cable supplied, and secondly, most purchasers would probably not be able to do that. Some reviewers commented on how satisfied they were with the floodlights which had been installed by their electrician (!!) [Part P and all that . . .!]. The appalling aspect of this situation is that numerous customers have submitted reviews to Amazon that highlight the safety defects and give strong safety warnings – and even made recommendations not to buy – but Amazon have done absolutely nothing to withdraw these items from their marketplace. The notion that umbrella retailers like Amazon can abdicate all responsibility for the stuff they offer [and, indeed, promote] through their website is untenable and surely has to be challenged by Trading Standards through the Court. Calling their operation a “marketplace” where any old hobbledehoy can pitch his stall and flog his gear without recrimination is not acceptable – it’s not the same as a statutory market operated by a local authority which could not possibly have any liability for the goods exposed for sale but which, in my experience, is subject to routine Trading Standards inspection and police oversight. Amazon have facilitated the marketing of every single product listed, they have classified and catalogued them, illustrated and described them, and ultimately provided a merchant facility enabling ordering, payment, and fulfilment. So, Socketman, Wavechange and Scott, I eagerly await your article and look forward to seeing this issue move up the public agenda.

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wavechange

Hopefully a new Conversation will be published soon. :-)

I hope that it would be in order to broaden this old Conversation to discuss electrical safety issues more generally. Socketman has given us some examples of potentially dangerous electrical goods on sale online, either on this or the previous Conversation, and all the ones I had bookmarked have been withdrawn from sale. Perhaps you could post a few links to examples that you have discovered.

I believe that Amazon should take responsibility for the safety of all goods sold by its Marketplace traders. I reported a problem with a product to Amazon and it was just referred to the trader. Trading Standards was no help either.

I’m hoping that we can find ways of interesting others in dangerous counterfeit goods, and unsafe products that are far from fit for purpose. Perhaps Which? Convo regulars like yourself can help to get others involved.

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socketman

And now we have the new conversation live. Thanks Patrick!

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JT

Am I alone in learning to wire plugs as part of GCSE school physics lessons? It was only 10 years ago… Now I enjoy pulling things apart and get annoyed by the moulded plugs that seem designed around the nanny state principle of assuming everyone is entirely incompetent. Blame the Yank litigation culture…

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wavechange

It’s not difficult to teach people how to do this job competently but in my experience, many plugs were poorly wired and it is not difficult to find fault with many of the videos and instructions available online. Decent quality moulded plugs eliminate the problem. Separate plugs remain available on hopefully those who buy them will know what they are doing.

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Andy Smith

So give me the bottom line….Pixmaina are selling Sony LED TVs that come supplied with a “UK Adaptor” as they call it. Is it worth buying the TV because its heavily discounted?

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wavechange

The regulations require that the approved adaptor is fitted rather than just put in the box.

Before you purchase from Pixmania, I suggest you search for reviews provided by customers or comments about their customer service. I wish I had before I made my first and only purchase.

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Maggie Herbert

As you all seem very technical – Can someone assist me with this query from a potential customer of mine?

I am moving to live in Switzerland. All my appliancs have UK plugs. I need to change thses plugs to Swiss plugs similar to the STEFFEN 149601. UK plugs have fuses. The STEFFEN plug does not. What I want to know is this. Are the fuses for the Swiss plugs in the wall sockets in Swiss houses, or do STEFFEN make plugs that contain fuses? I would very much like to buy all the Swiss plugs that I shall need from you, but without the relevent information, I don’t know what it is I need to order. Are you able to furnish me with this information? I should be most grateful for all the help I can get.

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wavechange

Hi Maggie. I don’t know much about overseas electrical systems and have only visited Switzerland once.

The plug you mention is unfused: http://www.iec.ch/worldplugs/typeJ.htm
and the only protection is the circuit breaker or fuse in the consumer unit.

An easy way to get started in your new home would be to take several four way extension sockets (which you may already have) and fit a Swiss plug in place of the UK one. That would allow you to use your existing electrical items without changing the plugs. Please don’t use extension sockets with items that take a lot of power – generally anything with a heater is in this category.

It may be tempting to use travel adaptors to allow you to plug in your UK appliances, but there are possible safety issues and I suggest you either change the plugs or do what I have suggested with an extension lead.

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BoredErLine

Wow – never in the history of black and white topics has so much grey existed. We either subscribe to the nanny state and relinquish all control of our responsibility (and only use what we hope are 3 pin UK approved fused plugs) or we educate people and cease living in ignorance. To think that wiring a plug is considered a dangerous act! Soon everything will be a magic box to the masses from toasters to d*****. There is a reason that natural selection exists, if you are unable to wire a plug, then seek help, if you do not and you burn your house down then, sorry to be blunt, universe 1 stupid human 0. Hiding danger from people in ever increasing layers of encapsulation can lead to only one outcome – docile sheep accepting everything they are told and handed. Yes I appreciate fitted plugs save lives and injuries and yes I accept that there are people who are too incompetent to fit plugs (after all three clearly coloured wires and three clearly marked holes are difficult to engage with) but I also accept that there are 7 billion and counting people grinding this planet into pieces, a vast majority of whom contribute nothing more that methane, hot air and s***** worry about self education or independent thought. The choice is, and always has been, yours.. Less morons more power, that is my opinion. Oh and as for the puns, my god is your intelligence so retarded by the countless hours of daytime T.V. you imbibe that your humour has gone the way of your intellects? Buy something from Amazon, if it comes with a two pin plug then 1) jam it into a UK socket by bypassing the built in security and burn your house down with your family in 2) cut it off and fit a correct plug 3) cut it off and fit an incorrect plug (see 1) 4) use a correct and safe adapter 5) use an incorrect and unsafe adapter (see 1) 6) send it back to Amazon and get a refund 7) wrap the cord around your neck and tighten until you do not need to worry about plugs anymore or 8) don’t buy anything from the Internet, support the high street and you own economy and no longe

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jjjj1577

Thanks for tour brilliant reply. You not only put a part of everyday life in its proper perspective, but you also brightened up what has been a dull day for me . LMAO

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Seares

Here! here!
We’re supposed to be a technocratic society—- and yet some people can’t even fit a plug?

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wavechange

I have yet to find a video that both demonstrates good practice and highlights the important points.

I am very glad we have moulded plugs or prewired plugs fitted by people who know what they are doing.

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Seares

I made a film some years ago for a mental health charity. Part of it showed patients- clients-doing ‘simple household tasks’, one of which was fitting a standard 3-pin UK plug. (The rest of the population is presumably too thick to even try!)

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malcolm r

Sears, wiring a 3-pin plug correctly requires knowledge – like many other so-called diy jobs – for it to be done properly, and safely. Knowing which colour wire goes to which terminal, removing insulation (and not any stranded conductors) at the correct length, leaving the earth wire longer so it does not take strain, clamping the outer properly, for example. I wouldn’t characterise it as a simple household task – a potentially dangerous operation if put in the wrong hands

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wavechange

Absolutely, Malcolm. The plug manufacturers have not always helped. In the UK we have been using the brown, blue and green/yellow colour coding for many years, yet I have yet to see a BS 1363 mains plug marked with these colours. I have a BS 546 (round pin) plug dating from the 1950s and the pins are clearly marked with red, black and green colours, though that was the exception rather than the rule.

We have had plugs designed so that the conductors should be cut to the same length, without taking into account that the earth conductor needs to be longest so that it would be the last to break if the cable clamp failed or was not used.

We have also seen plugs with cable clamps that are so difficult to use that people often failed to use them, leaving the two or three insulated conductors hanging out of the plug. I believe these plugs should have been recalled.

The vast majority of plugs have been sold with a 13 amp fuse fitted, rather than leaving the user to fit the appropriate fuse.

As Malcolm says, fitting a plug requires knowledge. To teach someone how to do it safely requires more than knowledge, which is why I am critical of many training videos, not just those about fitting plugs.

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