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?

401 comments

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Andrew

I have just had an Italian, stainless steel, cooker hood delivered; it has a two wire power cable for mains connection. I don’t see how wiring that to a three-pin plug makes it safe – it can never be earthed. Do I have to run a separate earth from the metal hood back to the earth terminal on the supply?

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John Ward

In a word, Yes. The best way would be to replace the two-core cable with a three-core cable but you need to examine carefully where you will terminate the earth core inside the hood, in the event that it does not have a triple terminal block or an earthing point, in order to ensure that there is full electrical continuity to all parts.

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wavechange

This may be a Class II appliance that is intended for use without an earth. If so, it will be marked with the standard symbol – a pair of concentric squares.

As John says, an earthed appliance should have all accessible parts earth-bonded.

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Brian

I have brought a swedish electrolux washing machine back to UK. It has been working fine with an adaptor. Now it has fused .I have cut the wire & it has 3 core-brown blue & yellow/green. Can I wire this to a 3 pin plug

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wavechange

There should not be a problem providing that the job is done correctly.

What do you mean that the adaptor has fused? If it has overheated, there is a possibility that it could have damaged the wall socket, in which case that would need to be replaced.

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Brian

thank you for your reply
the wall socket is still working ok

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Len

I have just purchased a Liebherr freezer and fridge from the gas superstore.They came with an 85 mm adapter that means the appliances stick out 85mm past the worktops as the sockets are behind the appliances.I can no longer open my cupboard doors that are on a 90 degree angle to the fridge.1)is it legal for them to sell me these without telling me? 2) I have spoke to an electrician to see if a U.K plug could be put on. He said he was unsure and had been trying to find that out himself for a long time so would not do it till he knew for sure.

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John Ward

As I understand it, any appliance supplied into the UK domestic market must be fitted with a compliant standard UK 13A three-pin plug. You should immediately inform The Gas Superstore that your fridge and freezer are not fit for purpose and reject them. The retailer is responsible for compliance and is the party committing the offence. Adaptors themselves are not always electrically satisfactory and in any case are not intended to be used for permanent installations. Even if you were able to put a short twin-socket extension lead into one of the sockets behind your appliances and find space to then plug the adaptors into the extension so that your fridge and freezer lined up with your worktop that would still be a potentially unsafe situation. Liebherr products are available with UK plugs – John Lewis sell them, so it makes you wonder where The Gas Superstore sources them. Liebherr appliances are generally premium-priced so you should not accept any compromises in the goods supplied by the retailer.

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wavechange

John is absolutely right. Please will Which? pursue this matter because the longer than retailers continue to supply non-compliant products, the more difficult it will be to stop this practice.

Extension leads are not a good solution for kitchen appliances.

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John Ward

Agreed Wavechange. Only a short-term work-around pending Len getting rectification from the retailer. Even a continental-to-UK extension lead would be a bad outcome.

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Len

I contacted Liebherr and this is their reply All Liebherr appliances purchased in the UK are supplied with a European plug adapted for use in the UK. I can confirm that this is both legal and safe in accordance with EU directives. If you do wish to change the plug to a standard 3-pin, as long as this work is carried out by a competent person, this will have no effect on the warranty supplied with the appliance.. Thanks to John and Waverchange for your replies.

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John Ward

I hope Socketman is still keeping an eye on this Conversation as it would be interesting to get his reaction to Liebherr’s comments.

As a matter of interest, Len, was that response given in writing or over the phone?

Note that a “competent person” does not have to be a qualified electrician; best to get good quality plugs if you’re changing them yourself.

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Len

The reply was by Email from Liebherr.I also had another reply from the gas superstore saying they had been in contact with Liebherr “They also advised us that if this was the case and you wished to have an electrician change the plug to a 3 pin plug, it would not affect your warranty in any way”. I changed the plug myself and was surprised to see the wiring was the same as a UK plug,as the electrician I had spoken to told me there would be no earth wire in the cable.

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wavechange

I expect that the plug you removed would be a Schuko plug, with two side contacts, which would be connected to the Earth wire. I’m no expert but I would expect fridges and freezers to be earthed.

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Shell

Can I ask if this was definitely an adaptor not a conversion plug, I know there can be mix ups with the way they are worded. If it’s a conversion plug they are legal for the company to use as long as it can only be opened using a tool. If it is just an adaptor then this should not have been supplied.

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chrissey

Hi am moving to France I was wondering if my fridge freezer will be ok if plug is changed to a two pin plug or do I need to use travel plug?
Kind regards
Chrissey

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wavechange

Travel adaptors should never be used for permanent connection of electrical appliances. Since a fridge-freezer will have an earth connection, you will need to fit a Type E (French) CEE 7/6 plug to fit the CEE 7/5 wall socket. The plug has two pins and a hole and the socket has two holes and a pin.
See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_power_plugs_and_sockets

This is a better design than the Schuko plug used in Germany and elsewhere on the continent because, like the UK plug, it is polarised – it can only be fitted one way round. Unless you are sure how to connect the brown, blue and green/yellow wires and are confident about doing the job, it would be better to have plugs fitted professionally.

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Claire

Hi,

I have bought an AEG gas hob from Germany and its arrived with a two pin plug. Does this need to be rewired before an engineer will fit it? Thanks for any help.
Claire

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John Ward

A two-pin plug will not be compliant for use in the UK. Normally, a gas hob only requires a small amount of electric current to operate the ignition system and possibly some controls or indicators, but they are usually hard-wired into the cooker power supply circuit, not plugged into a wall socket. Without knowing exactly what specification the manufacturer has used it’s impossible to say whether a two-core cable or a two-core plus earth cable is required. You will have to arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to install the gas hob for you and he or she should be able to advise you on the correct method of connecting to the electrical supply, or possibly, if the hob is to be associated with an electric oven, connected to the oven’s electrical supply.

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Claire

Thank you for your help- much appreciated.

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malcolm r

Claire, as this is an EU product it must comply with EN safety requirements so, presumably, with a 2 pin plug the electrical equipment is class 2 (double insulated) that does not require an earth. It should have a symbol showing 2 concentric squares. The installation instructions should also show this. If it is to be plugged in to an electrical socket then it should be wired to a standard 3 pin plug, but just using Line and Neutral. That would be my understanding.

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wavechange

No responsible retailer should be supplying goods to the UK without either a standard UK plug or a ready-fitted conversion plug.

It is likely that the two-pin plug on Claire’s hob is a Schuko plug with side earth contacts.

A gas hob should not be wired directly to a cooker point intended for an electric cooker because this will be protected by a circuit breaker or fuse rated at 30 amps or more, giving inadequate protection in event of a fault.

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malcolm r

If you buy direct from another country – for example through amazon.de, then you can expect to get a product that is suitable for that country. It can be advantageous – my younger son bought a projector through amazon.de that was £150 cheaper than an identical one through amazon.uk. No delivery charge. Worth looking!

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David Mann

Hi,

I purchased a Samsung flat screen TV via pixmania/Amazon and it turned up with the French two pin plug, I have been using it with a UK three pin adapter for a few months now and I am worried this is not what I should be doing. Is this a fire risk and if so what should I do to ensure the connection is safe?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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rarrar

You can get a proper plug adapter rather than a “shaver type” plug in adaptor – looks like a 3 pin plug inside which the 2 pin euro plug is slotted and clamped by the plug lid and screw.

However my Samsung TVs came with detachable mains leads – Fig 8 plug one end to go into TV; so if yours is the same just use any fig8 mains lead with a 3 pin UK plug on the other end preferably of the moulded on type should be fitted with 3 amp fuse.

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Tanya

I have just started a business supplying barbering products and equipment to barbershops. I have found the perfect distributor in the States as the offer great prices and good quality products, however, their electrical equipment does not come with the standard UK 3 Pin plug. Does anybody have advice on how to retail these products under the legitimate standards expected of me? I would think attaching adapters to every item would be a no go so what would I need to do. Some of these products are rare.to see in the UK so I’m very keen to bring them over.

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John Ward

It might not just be a case of the plug not fitting in a UK socket, the appliances themselves might run at a different voltage to the UK standard and still pose a safety risk even if you replaced the American plugs with UK 13A plugs before selling the products on. You should get expert advice

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malcolm r

Tanya, as John says they will not necessarily be suitable for the UK/European electricity supply (230 volts 50 Hz). Furthermore they would need to be shown to comply with all the relevant European safety standards and carry a CE mark for them to be suitable for the European market.

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Tanya

Thank you. Looked into this further and they would not be compatible for UK use so I will have to look at an alternative UK distributor :( thanks anyway.

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Kim

Hi. I want to purchase a hair styling item – some heated ceramic rollers. The UK price is £70 but on amazon.es (Spain) they are about £40. I realise that they would be supplied with a two pin plug ready for the Spanish market and have been looking as to whether I would be able to use them in the UK with an appropriate adapter. Is this OK? Thanks

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Paul K

I purchased a ‘Kenley’ ice crusher from Amazon. It arrived on Wednesday 29th July and upon opening the box I found it was fitted with a 2 pin European plug. I went onto Amazons unfriendly user email site and asked why and as there is absolutely no information as to where this appliance was manufactured where was it made. Amazon have to be the most difficult company I have ever dealt with. They had the cheek to suggest I purchase an adaptor and never answered my question of where it was manufactured. Not one for giving up I again went on their site and asked for a call back. I got a call and the chap was as useful as a chocolate fire guard. No replacement was offered and no disclosure as to the country of origin. I asked for customer services complaints department, he told me there is no complaints department !!! What a total disgrace Amason is. Any views please.

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