/ Home & Energy, Shopping

Two-pin plugs – it’s just not British

Two-pin plug

Have you ever been sent a household appliance with a two-pin plug – the type you’d find on mainland Europe? We’ve heard from a number of people who have – little do they know that this is against the law.

It’s actually illegal for UK retailers to sell most domestic electrical products (not for example shavers, electric toothbrushes or items with rcd plugs) with two-pin plugs under the Plugs and Sockets Safety Regulations 1994. Most domestic appliances must be fitted with an approved three-pin British plug or an approved conversion plug.

Plugs – when two-pins aren’t enough

We wanted to dig deeper to see how widespread this problem was. So we surveyed 1,321 Which? members and found that one in 20 had bought a product online that came with an incorrect plug. A third of those were Amazon (including its Marketplace) customers.

We asked Amazon about this and it pointed us to its returns policy. And although this is fairly generous (30 days for any items sold by, or fulfilled by, Amazon), the policy doesn’t address the fact that sending these items in the first place is in breach of two sets of regulations. These are the Plugs regulations mentioned before and the Sale of Goods Act. If you receive an item with a two-pin plug, you can reject it as unfit for purpose under the Sale of Goods Act. We’ll be taking this up with Amazon to find out what it’s planning to do to prevent this.

In the meantime, is this something that’s ever happened to you? What sort of appliance did you get with a two-pin plug, and did you have any luck getting it changed for a model with a three-pin British plug?

[UPDATE APRIL 2014] – due to the volume of comments made here we got in touch with Amazon to ask about the problem of products with two-pin plugs being sold on its website:

“At Amazon, we are committed to providing our customers with the best possible shopping experience. All sellers on Amazon Marketplace must adhere to our selling guidelines. Any seller found to contravene those guidelines will be subject to action from Amazon including removal of product listings and their account. The Amazon A-to-z Guarantee provides additional protection for customers who buy from Amazon.co.uk’s third party Marketplace and if a customer received the item, but the item was defective, damaged, or not the item depicted in the seller’s description, we will refund or replace that item. For more information on our A-to-Z Guarantee please visit our website.”

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I wonder why rechargeable toothbrushes and rechargeable shavers have a two pin plug when shaver sockets are generally not intended for more than short term use. Often there is a warning that they are not intended for charging anything and I have seen melted shaver sockets when they have been used in this way.

Meanwhile back on topic, I have received computer accessories supplied with two leads – one with two pins and one with a conventional BS1363/A British 3 pin plug. Like having an instruction book in 43 languages, it is not a serious problem even if it is a waste of resources.

Member
Kelly says:
14 December 2012

I bought a digital set top box for my TV from a local Euronics electrical retailer. The box was faulty and the manager of the shop was very reluctant to give me a refund, he refused for a long time and was rude. Eventually he agreed to give me a refund – by cheque.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I hope it did not have a two-pin plug. The Euronics logo is – or was – a three-pin plug. 🙂

Member
Kelly says:
15 December 2012

Yes it did have a 2 pin plug, and there was some kind of converter thing in the box that I was supposed to fit to the plug, and screw closed. Not a happy customer, I’ll not be back in that shop again.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have an old Sony VCR like that. The lead has a two pin plug and that fits inside a rather large three pin plug. I wondered why the plug was so large so I took it apart to find out. It was also fitted with the wrong fuse, but that is not uncommon.

Member
William France says:
15 December 2012

I live in France. Here, although new installations have to be earthed, the majority of houses do not have earths. I have been here 14 years and I am still unhappy with the situation. The only argument I have seen or heard about the British system is that the plugs are so bulky. However they are infinitely safer.
I am sensitive to electricity. Twice at work, I have pointed out to the electrician that a machine is not earthed. To say the least they were upset, if not angry, that I was saying that they had not wired the plug properly. But I insisted and on examination, they found that the fault was in the machine, where the earth had not been connected properly. After that, they took my word on all things electrical!
The earth is needed. I can feel the earth leak in nearly all the electrical goods in my house. It is not immediately dangerous. all I feel is like the skin of a peach on smooth metal. However, it is a warning. If something goes wrong there may be no protection. I am a little less worried, because every house I have been in has a central RCD. I know an earth is not needed on double insulated apparatus, but the third pin is used to open the child protection on British sockets. I is needed and is often replaced by a plastic pin.
Another feature that is difficult to grasp here in France is the presence of power plugs in bathrooms. In the UK only fused 1 amp, two pin sockets are allowed in bathrooms. These take the continental two pin plugs, allowed on shavers and toothbrushes etc. This prevents things like electric fires being plugged in. (In France the bathroom is the favoured location for a washing machine thence the power sockets.)

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

A two pin bathroom shaver socket has an isolation transformer, so in event of a fault you should not be able to electrocute yourself. That is better than an RCD, which only cuts down the risk of electrocution.

If you want to make an impression at work, take in a neon mains tester. It will glow orange when in contact with the equipment that you can feel is ‘live’.

One of the dangers of a two pin plug is that it can be reversed, so that a single pole switch in the appliance or lead can be in the neutral rather than live. It is possible to work out the ‘correct’ orientation and mark the plug, but that is hardly a satisfactory arrangement.

Member
William France says:
15 December 2012

I’m not sure that there is a neutral per say in France. The single phase we receive is from a three phase inlet into the house. Wires in the house circuit can be almost any two colours from red, black, yellow or blue. All lines are fused (two per circuit). Earths, where they exist, are green and yellow as in the UK. I am not an electrician but I like to know how things work.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Try a neon tester on both wires and I expect that you will find that one is live.

I think we need some input from Dave D.

Profile photo of brianac
Member

This article is mis leading, There are generally two types of two pin plug, the one used on shavers referenced in the article, and the two pin plug shown in the photo in the article.
Many items sold in UK have two pin plugs fitted inside a UK converter adaptor.

This is off topic, but …
Sorry William you are mostly wrong here. It seems you are living in a very old house in France which is long overdue for a re-wire, you will need to get that done before you try to sell it. If you are getting earth leakage tingles then maybe you should get it done sooner rather that later.
In France grounding is not mandatory on old properties but is for new installations, it is strongly recomended in the regs, a simple ground spike works wonders. France very much does have a live and neutral. Neutral MUST be blue as in all of Europe (UK seems to like black also, always different from the rest), ground MUST be yellow/green as in all of Europe (that does include UK), live is usually brown, but in fixed wiring in general general may be any other colour other than blue, green or yellow. Most (modern!!) outlets in France are 3 pin grounded, all are safety shuttered. There are many old properties way past their safety age that ought to be re-wired.

Member
William France says:
17 December 2012

I bought a neon tester. sure enough one wire is not live. Thinking about it both could not be live without some jigerypokery with the phasing!

I checked several sockets, however, and the neutral seems to vary randomly. Not surprising when the plug can normally be used either way round. Interestingly, High current double insulated plugs have a bezel with two cut-outs so that even they can be inserted either way round.

Not all the appliances where my touch indicated a poor earth light up the neon tester, though most did.

Profile photo of brianac
Member

By conventional practice in France the live is left and ground pin down. If you look at it standing on your head it comes out the same way round as in UK.

Member
William France says:
17 December 2012

thank you brianac that is very informative. I have not checked the colours of the wires, only the position of the live relative to the plug (left or right). And yes, I do have an old house (1970). In the UK this would have had reasonably up-to-date wiring.

Member
William France says:
17 December 2012

There may be a convention, but as the sockets themselves are round and only gripped by claws, they are in practice omnidirectional. Many are sideways. Light switches too.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

If you look at a the back of a British socket you will see that the connections are clearly labelled L, N and E. I imagine that the same applies to French sockets.

In the UK it is easy to buy an inexpensive tester to check that sockets are wired up correctly. I imagine these are available in France too.

Profile photo of NFH
Member

There’s a Wikipedia page about the plugs and sockets used in each country at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_electricity_by_country including a colour-coded map. There are lots of countries that use the British system, particularly in the Middle East.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I presume that Trading Standards should be informed about products that are fitted with the wrong plug.

Another thing to watch for is three-pin plugs with insulation on part of the earth pin (the largest pin). The smaller live and neutral pins should be part insulated but there is no reason for doing this on the live pin and it can mean that the earth is not connected to the socket, making a three-pin plug act as if it has only two pins.

Plenty of goods fitted with a three-pin plug are double insulated and the earth pin is not connected, or can be plastic. No reputable manufacturer will ever sell goods with a partly insulated earth pin.

Goods sold on eBay are often counterfeit and some are electrically dangerous. Plugs with the fault I have mentioned have also been sold via Amazon sellers.

Member

A universal plug socket… at last?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18266022

Member
William France says:
17 December 2012

One problem with a truly universal socket is the earth. In the UK, the earth pin is in the plug. Here, in France, the pin is in the socket itself. It means that either appliances from France will not be earthed or that the UK plugs could not fit.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

There are other problems. Having sufficiently good connections to provide good earthing and low resistance to prevent overheating would be difficult when used with higher powered appliances. A fuse would be needed in every plug to protect the cable and the appliance. Then there is the problem of different voltages. Some items such as laptop power supplies can cope with different voltages but most cannot.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

Interesting to look back at the beginning of this conversation so long ago, regarding this particular aspect, see: http://universalsocket.org.uk/BBC_Complaint_Upheld/bbc_complaint_upheld.html

Member
Gerard Phelan says:
16 December 2012

A friend asked me to rewire a twinkling miniature Christmas tree tabletop light that had one of these ‘continental’ 2 pin plugs. She had been given it by a visitor from abroad, so that is one route such devices and their plugs will always get into the country.
HOWEVER I am very glad that I was asked. Yes it did have a 2 pin plug, but the prongs were sticking out of a transformer box that converted the mains into 5 volts for the light.
My friend knows nothing about gadgets and had been going to do this herself by cutting the box and its plug off and connect the wires from the light to a three pin plug. This would have resulted in 240 volts being connected to leads and light unit expecting 5 volts. She had no idea that the box attached to the plug was anything special!

Profile photo of brianac
Member

This would happen even if it were a 3 pin UK power unit and someone decided to change it.

Member
Coppetain says:
17 December 2012

Is there are difference between what is legal and what is safe? Is it just the plugs, or do the regulations require earthing through the plugs? On several occasions I have bought equipment in the UK with mains cabling ending in two-pin plugs that Wikipedia calls “C (CEE 7/16 Europlug)”, which in turn are enclosed in an adapter with three UK pins. This is great when using the appliance in Europe: you just remove the outer adapter.

Question: If the appliance is “Class 2”, is this practice safe? Is it legal?

Wikipedia: “Class 2 insulation means that the device is double insulated. This is used on some appliances such as electric shavers, hair dryers and portable power tools. Double insulation requires that the devices have both basic and supplementary insulation, each of which is sufficient to prevent electric shock. All internal electrically energized components are totally enclosed within an insulated body that prevents any contact with ‘live’ parts. In the EU, double insulated appliances all are marked with a symbol of two squares, one inside the other.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulator_%28electricity%29#Class_1_and_Class_2_insulation

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Basically, Class 1 appliances are earthed and Class 2 rely on having adequate insulation to protect the user from electrocution. Often Class 2 appliances have no exposed parts but some do (e.g. an electric drill with a metal chuck). Class 1 appliances must have a three-pin plug and many Class 2 appliances do too.

Many appliances with two pin plugs have low power consumption and have thin cables. In the UK they would normally be used via an adapter with a 1 amp fuse. That is very necessary because the normal ‘ring main’ is protected by a 30 am circuit breaker or fuse. I don’t know about other countries.

Member

Bought a wireless adapter from Amazon. It came with two pin (EU) plug and extra adapter to connect up to UK socket. Quite a cumbersome bit of kit therefore. When I queried it with the supplier they said these were imported from Europe and they added the adapter for UK markets.

Profile photo of brianac
Member

UK no longer rules the world, we have to share it.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The sort of adapter that Alan mentions is like the one on my Sony VHS recorder that I mentioned earlier in the conversation. There’s a photo on this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europlug

There is the danger that someone could put a 13 amp fuse in the adaptor, so I don’t like it. Apart from that the adaptor is larger than a typical 13 amp plug.

Member
William France says:
17 December 2012

I find this conversation interesting but I wonder why it is a problem. surely these continental two pins will not fit a UK socket. The only place they might be used without some sort of adapter is in a shaver socket. a two pin plug with british pins could not be used because the earth pin is needed to open the safety gate.

For visitors here in France, I find the tourist adapters are very poor they overheat and often do not fit properly.. I have bought two fused five socket extensions in the UK and simply changed the plug for a french one. I have similarly modified a french socket extension with a UK plug which we take on holiday. It may be a fool’s ignorance, but I feel much safer that way.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have seen 2-pin Europlugs pushed into UK 13 amp sockets and even seen this done by people who should know better. Thankfully the British shaver plug has the pins too close together to make this possible. It’s very easy to defeat the shutter on a 13 amp socket and I have seen electricians do this to establish if circuits are live.

As you say the adaptors are poor and your solution is far better, albeit not very portable.

Profile photo of brianac
Member

Two-pin plugs – it’s just not British Getting back on subject.
I always understood it was mandatory in UK for a moulded 13 A 3 pin plug to be fitted.
It follows then that there must be exclusions that allow, certainly shavers, and maybe other low power devices such as rechargeable toothbrushes to have 2 pin German types, not French type types, that fit into standard UK shaver adaptors.
It is perhaps a little unfortunate the title had a bit of EU bashing about it, as this fact was stated from the outset.
I have recently bought an electric hoist from Amazon which is very much not in the low power category. It had a 3 pin moulded European plug fitted into a 13A adapter. I wonder if this is classed as a “personal import” as it is not factually despatched from within UK. This will also apply to many items on Ebay which will often be sent directly from China.
I did think that a bit strange at the time but it fitted in nicely with my garage equipment which just happens to mostly use legacy French plugs with a French multiway distribution strip and expensive French heavy duty waterproof extension leads.

Profile photo of brianac
Member

@wavechange, yes, I do that myself. It is the only was I can charge my mobile phone.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

brianac

If the power adapter failed your only protection would be the 30 amp circuit breaker or fuse in the consumer unit. Maybe that is unlikely but it could be quite spectacular if it failed. I witnessed this when someone had connected a radio into a 30 amp cooker circuit. There was almighty bang and considerable devastation, with metal connection pins vapourised.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

The introduction is useful and explains the relevant legislation and consumers’ rights. What concerns me more is the potential danger if appliances with two pin plugs are used rather than returned. Many of us will find solutions and some are very unsafe.

I would be very grateful if Which? would draw attention to the hazards of unsafe, counterfeit electrical equipment and what action we should take. This should be more than asking for a replacement.

I assume that the trader should be informed. I did this when I was sent a counterfeit Apple power supply with an unfused 13 amp plug adapter. I was offered a refund but the company did not withdraw the product from sale on eBay, as I suggested. I considered informing Trading Standards but I have not found them helpful in the past. At the time I was shown a similar counterfeit adapter, also purchased online. This appeared to be fused but on removing the ‘fuse’ cover there was a strip of metal in place of a fuse.

We need some advice, please.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello Wavechange, you would have the right to reject the item as it wouldn’t be as described, nor fit for purpose. You could also go the extra mile and report it to Trading Standards as you have said.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

What I can achieve alone is very limited. I can only look after my own safety and possibly help a few friends and family members.

Member
William France says:
19 December 2012

Trading standards, when I have contacted them could not have been less helpful. If it is not on their agenda, forget it.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

That’s my experience too, William. To be fair, I have never taken discussed a safety issue with them.

Profile photo of dlorde
Member

I have bought several devices online that came with 2 pin European or US plugs. Mostly they also come with a separate adaptor, although I did have to ring up one supplier and get them to send one (by quoting the law at them, which they claimed to be unaware of).

Quite a few devices now come with neat snap-on adaptors for whichever sockets are in use, which seems a sensible compromise for international device manufacturers

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I’m not sure that this is a good solution. Were all your adaptors provided with the correct fuse? Will people think about using the correct fuse if they install an adaptor themselves?

Moving to moulded fused plugs has been a great step forward for electrical safety in the UK and I don’t believe that this should be debased for the convenience of manufacturers.

Member
Karin says:
20 December 2012

We have recently bought a coffee machine with a 2-pin plug (plus adapter) from Amazon Marketplace, sent by a German company. Is this illegal under the Sale of Goods Act or does it only apply if the item is sent from Amazon itself?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I will leave this for someone else to answer but I would like to make a comment about electrical safety.

A coffee maker will contain an electric heater and the insulation in heaters commonly breaks down. Even if there are no metal parts, there could be a danger of shock because tap water is conductive. I would expect all coffee makers to be earthed, which would require a 3-pin plug. I am not an electrician but I would not be happy with a coffee maker fitted with a 2-pin plug.

I hope that your coffee maker has a Schuko plug: http://www.fam-oud.nl/~plugsocket/Schuko1.html

Although this has only two pins, there is a separate earth connection. Used with a good quality fused adaptor, this would be perfectly safe.

Member
Karin says:
20 December 2012

Thanks for your concern, wavechange. I’ve checked and it does have a Schuko plug, plus a fused adaptor which surrounds the plug, so we should be OK.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

That’s great. Enjoy the coffee!

I have cut dozens of these plugs off imported laboratory equipment (for which there are/were no rules) but I did not know what they are called until today.

Member
Boglost says:
21 December 2012

Bought a Plustek negative scanner from Amazon in July this year 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. I shall be contacting Amazon regarding this matter, especially as when I have finished scanning my old negatives I will be unable to legally sell the device.

Member
Catherine FD says:
21 December 2012

Argos do this repeatedly. I also have electrical purchased from Australia, and like to travel, so I’ve always had adaptors on hand and never thought to complain.

Member
Brian says:
21 December 2012

Hi as a member I read with interest your article on illegal plugs. I purchased a Nilfisk C120 jet wash in August 2012 from Amazon it arrived with a 2 pin plug, as a retired electrician changing it was not a problem however what about the warranty, I contacted Nilfisk direct and was given the assurance if I was willing to replace the 2 pin for a BS 3 pin the warranty would not be effected so rather than the hassle of returning the washer I changed the plug and retained the name of the Nilfisk manager who sanctioned the undertaking in retrospect I probably should have requested confirmation in writing. Note:- The unit has the double insulated identification mark therefore the cable supplied is only 2 core so the earth pin is not used as advised the unit is connected using an RCD.

Member

I bought a TV from Pixmania online (3 years ago). It was supplied with a flat European 2 pin plug and an adapter for the UK. However the adapter was designed for a round European 2 pin + earth plug – such a plug could have been securely clamped in. The flat 2 pin plug could not be clamped into the adapter and therefore easily pulls out. I pointed out to Pixmania that this caused a serious electrical safety hazard because the live contacts in the adapter are easily accessible if the 2 pin plug is removed eg by a child. Pixmania seemed very reluctant to do anything but eventually (after 2 months) paid £3 so I could buy a suitable adapter in the UK. I will not use Pixmania again.

Member
Malcolm says:
26 December 2012

I have another Pixmania example, but from earlier this year (2012)

I bought a pair of LG computer monitors and they both came with the 2 pin plug and a very cheap nasty adapter. I took thisa up with them and asked them to send me 2 power leads (it was the ‘cloverleaf’ style connection) which I noticed they actually sold on their website. They refused and pointed to some very small print on their website for the item, saying it would come with these plugs. I took it up with them again, but they would not change their stance.

I ended up buying a couple of UK style power leads for the monitors and have refused to purchase anything from Pixmania again – just because of their poor customer service attitude.

Member

I have been sent two Christmas decorative lights from Fab.com Both came with two pin plugs. I was especially concerned as one is ‘suitable’ for external use, and both are presumably intended to be left on for long periods.

Member
Dennis Simmons says:
21 December 2012

Just bought to toothbrushes with two pin plugs house only 4 year old with two pin socket in bathroom. Wife also bought a quilting iron – small finger held unit – from a supplier at Malvern Quilt Show

Profile photo of dead eye dicky
Member

The January Which? landed on my doormat the day after a freezer with a Euro plug was delivered to my home by the firm Appliances On Line. There was an immediate need for me to get the freezer running as neighbours and friends were temporarily storing 12 cubic feet of contents in their freezers. A very simple and effective solution would have been for me to cut off the euro plug and fit a normal UK plug with a 5-amp fuse but I wondered if this would invalidate any warranty or gurantee. I had an old 3-pin to shaver adapter that I modified slightly and fitted a bigger fuse so I have solved the immediate problem but the adapter doesn’t provide an earth connection. I phoned Appliances On Line who were very appologetic and offered me a next-day replacement but, as I had spent two hours removing the packaging and manipulating the item into the room behind my garage with only 3 milimetres clearance, I was not very keen. They agreed that my changing the plug might affect my rights but offered to give me back 12% of the purchase price (£38) for me to obtain an adaptor with an earth connection. I’ve ordered an adaptor for £3.50 so this will reduce the cost of the freezer by £34.50 so I feel this has been my good luck. This all happened before Which? made me aware of the actual law. I shall probably use this adaptor until the guarantee runs out and then fit a proper UK plug so I have an adaptor for future use. Perhaps the moral of this story is for buyers who find they have the wrong plug fitted to an on-line purchase is to request a suitable compensation.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Many faced with this sort of problem will come up with solutions that are not safe. Many do not appreciate the importance of an earth connection.

A shaver adapter is intended for very low current appliances. That is why they are marked ‘shaver only’ and fitted with a 1 amp fuse. A freezer must be earthed and that is not possible using a shaver adapter. Freezers are normally fused at 13 amps because of the surge current when the compressor starts up.

Profile photo of dead eye dicky
Member

Hi Wavechange,
I used the term shaver adaptor because my device looks like one. I actually bought it in 1961 when many plugs had round pins. Its intention at that time was to allow the 2-pin plugs on many household devices such as table lamps and radios (even those with ‘live chassis’) to be run from modern ring main sockets. It has a modern type of fuse fitting and would normally have been fitted with a 5-amp fuse. Things we used in those days may, perhaps rightly, be considered unsafe in present circumstances. I used it for many years to run the electric razor I bought in Germany when in the RAF after demob. I take your remark about the need for a 13-amp fuse to take the surge current when the freezer motor starts and I will consider this. However, I always understood that the fuse rating should match the capacity of the cable connected to the plug. This freezer’s cable is not a 13-amp rating. I’m interested in what you may say about cable capacity.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

As you know, the only commonly used plug fuses are 13 amp and 3 amp, so freezers normally come with 13 amp fuses. Normally I choose the minimum fuse needed for an appliance (1 amp fuses are perfectly adequate for many small items in the home) but I have had 5 amp fuses blow in lab freezers, so I stopped being obsessive about downrating fuses for fridges and freezers many years ago. When doing my own wiring I would always match the cable and fuse as you suggest. I presume the logic of using light grade cable is that a faulty freezer is very unlikely to impose a continuous heavy load without blowing the fuse, so overheating is unlikely. That’s a guess and I’m not qualified to say.

To charge shavers and a toothbrush I use a 13 amp plug connected to a two pin socket, both brown bakelite 🙂 and probably contemporary with your adaptor. I’m familiar with radios etc. with a live chassis and other worrying things from the past, having taken electrical appliances apart since I was a teenager and survived, if for no logical reason.

Profile photo of dead eye dicky
Member

Wavechange, you are quite right! (“If all else fails read the instructions.”) I found a two sheet user manual with the other bumf that was inside the freezer. It does tell you to replace a blown fuse with a 13-amp. So far, the 5-amp I fitted has has now survived for 3 days but a long series of start-up surges may weaken the fuse and cause premature failure.

While I know that 3-amp and 13-amp have generally been standard for a long time, BS1362 does include 5-amp – as quoted on the back of an Ever Ready pack of fuses.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

BS1362 5 amp fuses are readily available and 1, 2, 7 and 10 amp can be purchased from specialist suppliers. I wish someone would tell equipment manufacturers.

Member
sumbloke says:
22 December 2012

I buy most of my aquarium equipment on-line 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 an 3 pin adapter is supplied for UK plug sockets. I just chop off the two pin plug and install a three pin plug. No big deal as a replacement three pin plug costs 67p and I am still saving a third on the local price. This is not an issue for me and I will certainly continue to support my favourite on-line dealers.

Member
Victor Delta says:
22 December 2012

I have bought a couple of digital cameras from Pixmania and on both occasions the battery chargers came with foreign plugs on them and 3 pin adaptors were supplied. At the time, I didn’t realise this was illegal and so didn’t challenge it. I wish I had now as the adaptors are bulky and a bit of a nuisance.

Profile photo of philip123
Member

Amazon seem in rather a muddle over this. I ordered a scanner in the summer and finding it had a 2-pin plug, returned it at their 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 adaptor or a credit note towards one. To my surprise they decided to give me 15% discount to keep the scanner and obtain my own adaptor. So I did get a scanner cheaper but it took about five weeks and money went in and out of my account several times.

Member

Play.com sold me a Swedish market mobile phone early this year, with a 2 pin plug and instructions in Swedish. I swiftly returned it, telling them I live in the UK, so they need to supply me with a Uk compatable device.

On a similar topic, there are MANY retailers selling import products without their adverts clearly stating that it is a non-UK market item which they are selling. I recently bought a mobile phone from Simply Electronics, the phone is an ASIA market device, not UK market. (it’s different in many ways). There is also a company called Valuebasket.com doing the same thing. Ebay is FLOODED with these sellers.

Member
BeauZeau says:
24 December 2012

Had the same problems as you guys, when I ordered a smartphone through a third party on Amazon.

The phone came with a European charger and supplied with a badly fitting UK adapter that wasn’t designed to accept a fuse. Got myself a UK charger and sent off an email to the seller, explaining situation. No reply was forthcoming.

Member
G Turner says:
24 December 2012

Recently in November 2012 I bought a Fender Acoustasonic 100 Amplifier on line from Gear4music and when it arrived it only had a two pin plug, and no adaptors. I was quite surprised but, until the article in Which, I was not aware of my rights, or that this was in fact against the law. I just changed the plug to an ordinary three pin, but this should not be necessary.

Member
Paul Dunleavy says:
24 December 2012

I purchased an electric toothbrush from Morrisons supermarket, The unit has as a 240v to low voltage charger with a two pin plug fitted, fortunately it fitted a 13amp plug/ electric shaver adapter.

Some people could get confused and get into difficulties as the two pin plug supplied does not fit a standard a standard 13amp to two pin continental adapter.

None of this was displayed at the sales dispay point and is not good enough.

Member
Martyn Evans says:
24 December 2012

Pixmania sent me a slide digitiser with a continental plug. No adaptor was supplied.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

The supplier was definitely committing a crime for which the penalty is up to six months imprisonment!. You should draw his attention to The Plugs & Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations (1994) which can viewed at;
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1994/1768/schedule/1/made
Also, there is helpful guidance on the regulations at:
http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file38628.pdf

Member
Rob de wit says:
25 December 2012

Hi I’m a bit confused by this article. According the British standards the earth pin on a plug must be full brass when the equipment is earthed, but when the equipment is not earthed the pin must’ve full plastic. (In case of phone chargers etc.) I have put a link for the governments bs http://www.bs1363.org.uk/. I think their should be a correction as it myth confuses other people

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Class 2 (non-earthed) equipment can have either a metal or plastic ‘earth’ pin. Most sockets require this pin to open the shutters to allow the plug to be inserted. The website you provide a link for is not official.

I mentioned the danger of partially insulated earth pins earlier. They could result in electrocution. Assume that any appliance they are connected to is just as dangerous.

Profile photo of dead eye dicky
Member

If the electrical item has a flat flexible cable on the plug there will be no earth wire so the earth pin on a UK plug only has to open the shutter across the other two pin holes on the socket and the large pin can therefore be metal or plastic. The plug may also contain a transformer/rectifier to step down the voltage to the item it is supplied with (mobile phone etc.) and this will normally be designed to operate safely without an earth connection These things are usually sealed in some way so that you can’t get inside them accidentally. Look for the safety symbol on such units. This is now standard and is a small square inside a larger square, usually moulded into the plastic. If the item has a two-pin plug at he end of its lead, such as the holder/charger for an electric toothbrush it should have the two-square safety symbol, this can be plugged into a bathroom safety socket or a ‘razor’ socket that has a safety trip or a fused adaptor with a 1-amp or 2-amp fuse.

Profile photo of chrisco
Member

My daughter bought two heaters to replace the inefficient storage heaters in her flat. These were supplied with the continental two pin plugs (they are manufactured in Spain). I called the supplier to query whether it was acceptable or indeed legal to be supplied thus & he assured me that they can be either “hard wired” to a spur or the plugs replaced by a UK 13amp plug & plugged into a socket. I am not convinced that this practice is legal & even phoned the Electricity Safety Council & the Trading Standards both of which didn’t have a clue & couldn’t answer my question! My daughter paid nearly £600 for these two heaters & I think it’s a pretty poor show that they are supplied in this way & ok she could have rejected them as not being fit for purpose but all she wanted was an assurance, in addition to the aforementioned supplier, from the “powers that be” that these heaters are safe to use in the UK.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I wonder why retailers don’t just fit UK plugs. That would have to be done competently, of course.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

The supplier was definitely committing a crime for which the penalty is up to six months imprisonment!. You should draw his attention to The Plugs & Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations (1994) which can viewed at;
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1994/1768/schedule/1/made
Also, there is helpful guidance on the regulations at:
http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file38628.pdf

Member
Seggieboat1 says:
28 December 2012

I bought a Braun Silk Epilator with two pin plug from Boots just before Christmas.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

As the article makes clear, shavers are an exception. They are equipped with special UK 2 pin plugs suitable for use with dedicated shaver sockets which are designed for use in bathrooms.

Member
Alastair Munro says:
28 December 2012

Reading the January issue of the Which Magazine I was surprised to read that it was illegal to sell electrical product fitted with a non standard plug. My experience is as follows.:-
My wife recently(December) purchased a electric Tooth Brush as a present for my birthday, When I went to charge it up, I discovered that the charging unit was fitted with a two pin plug, as I had a shaver/light unit fitted in the Bathroom I tried to use this but the cable of the charger unit was not long enough to set the charger down safely, therefore I was unable to charge the shaver,(initially to check that the product was OK). As my wife had purchased the Shaver from Tesco we took the unit back to the shop and to their Customer Service Desk. The staff working at the Desk were not surprised and had obviously heard our story before. they told us that we would have to buy an adaptor, at our expense. I must say we were not pleased.
There was no advice given either in the product instructions/packaging or displayed at the point of sale. I do not expect this sort of treatment from Tesco. If they continue to sell this product they should give advise to customers .

Profile photo of socketman
Member

As the article makes clear, electric toothbrushes are an exception. They are equipped with special UK 2 pin plugs suitable for use with dedicated shaver sockets which are designed for use in bathrooms. Your toothbrush charger was fitted with the appropriate plug, it is not the retailers fault that you do not have a suitable socket!

Member
John Seccombe says:
29 December 2012

Ipurchased a braunelectric toothbrush from amazon, which came with a two pin plug. I then had to buy an adapter but when the adapter came I found the plug would not even fit that. I rejected both items and Amazon refunded.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

Some further clarification.

With the exception of toothbrushes and shavers, domestic appliances must be sold in the UK fitted with either BS 1363 three pin plugs, or with acceptable types from other countries which are enclosed in BS 1363 conversion plug (removable only with the use of a tool). A “travel adaptor” is NOT a conversion plug, and is unacceptable as an alternative. Note, the conversion plug MUST be fitted to the appliance, not supplied loose in the box!

See the Government’s guidance notes to The Plugs & Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations (1994) which can viewed at:
http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file38628.pdf

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

It is worth checking that the conversion plug is fitted with a 3 amp fuse and is marked BS1363.

Thanks for the useful link.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

Yes, a conversion plug must be fitted with a fuse, or it would not conform to BS 1363-5, but the value of the fuse must be appropriate to the cable with which it is used.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Yes, but the majority of the items we are discussing are of low power consumption. Not everyone understands cable rating and it would not be good to have a 13 amp fuse unless that is needed.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

It is the responsibilty of the supplying company to follow the rules relating to fuse rating in conversion plugs as they are set out in BS 1363-5, it is absolutely not OK to simply assume 3A is correct. 3A is only appropriate for cables of 0.5mm squared. Clearly it would not be appropriate for the examples above involving refrigerators and heaters!

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Clearly it is the responsibility of the retailer to provide equipment with an appropriate fuse but I don’t trust them to do this. I have changed many hundreds of inappropriate 13 amp fuses since the 1994 regulations came in. I have also seen several items provided with adaptors that are not fused at all – a real fire hazard.

Member
chursell says:
31 December 2012

A little over two years ago I bought an Oregon Scientific projection clock from Amazon – the order was fulfilled by a German supplier, Avides. It arrived with a plug-in type power ‘brick’ which had a two-pin European style mains connector moulded on as part of the ‘brick’. No adapter was supplied. When plugged in using a suitable adapter the power ‘brick’ projected some 7cm – 8cm from the surface of the wall socket, and being quite weighty the slightest touch would cause it to simply fall out. This I think is much worse than the wrong type of plug on the end of a flying lead – that can be recitified fairly easily, but the moulded style power ‘bricks’ cannot be altered. I should say that Amazon/Avides were very helpful and arranged for a return and refund.

I decided recently to try again – I bought a very similar product from Oregon Scientific, this time direct from their UK website store hoping that it would be provided with a UK style plug. It arrived today – same problem – power block with moulded European style two-pin mains connector. It was shipped from an Oregon office in the Netherlands. I have sent an e-mail to their customer services requesting a replacement power ‘brick’ or a refund. (Incidentally, it costs 10p per minute to call their customer services for the privilege of returning incorrect or faulty goods, and you get put on hold seemingly indefinitely, although perhaps that’s a little unfair though as it is a holiday period.) I guess if all else fails I should be able to return it under the distance selling rules.

Profile photo of socketman
Member

It should be noted that the law requiring UK domestic appliances to be supplied with BS 1363 plugs does not apply to plug-in power supplies of the type described. The regulations surrounding these seem to be a grey area which requires further clarification, this would be a good subject for Which? to campaign on!