/ Home & Energy

Would you trust a safety system based on Amazon reviews?

Amazon

A leaked government email has revealed a strange suggestion to replace the European standards mark that indicates if a product is considered safe by the manufacturer. Instead, it suggests using Amazon reviews – what do you think of this idea?

According to news reports, it seems that government officials are seeking ideas to change the UK safety system post-Brexit. And it looks like these ideas could weaken protections for consumers, in agreement with industry.

The news suggests that government officials have been approaching industry groups and asking for volunteers that would no longer have to demonstrate that they comply with existing product standards.

We can probably agree that the current safety regime hasn’t been working all that well – recent debacles with Whirlpool owned fire-risk tumble-dryers are a case-in-point. But is relying on Amazon’s customer reviews to show that a product is safe and conforming to safety standards really the answer?

Amazon reviews

At first, I thought this was a spoof from the Daily Mash. However, last night’s Evening Standard confirmed the leaked proposal.

The leaked messaged stated:

‘I actually wonder, given the UK consumer penchant for internet shopping, the extent to which an Amazon review will supersede any mark to demonstrate conformity with safety requirements’

In case you aren’t familiar with Amazon’s reviews, they’re created by registered Amazon members, and, according to Amazon’s website, you have to have been ‘successfully charged for the purchase of the physical or digital item’ in order to submit a review.

As a previous Amazon customer, I’ve found reviews helpful when deciding which boxset of Friends to buy, or if the Lord of the Rings extended edition Blu-ray is really worth the extra money (FYI, it is).

However, I’m not sure these reviews are really capable of setting the safety regime of the country. While there are some helpful reviews in there to help decide which DVD to buy, I personally wouldn’t solely rely on these reviews. After all, these customers are probably unlikely to be testing these products with safety criteria in mind.

I mean, we are referring to the same site where reviews like this appear:

Safety regime

As many of you will know, we’re pushing for the government to reform the UK’s product safety regime as it’s clear it’s not doing enough to protect us all. So news of a government department tasked with protecting consumers exploring such wild ideas is worrying.

In our opinion, it flies in the face of Ministerial commitments to not weaken key consumer protections through Brexit.

What do you think of this leaked suggestion to change the UK’s safety system? How would you improve safety as we leave the EU?

Comments
Member

OMG Lauren this is one country that goes by rules+regulations -it lives it ! I think all the regulars will be “up in arms ” about this . If TM wanted some way of losing the next election then this is one major reason . What,s going on in TM,s mind ?? she is Libra she should know better. Amazon reviews ?? to me this is an extreme insult to every citizen in this country I keep saying HMG are pulling this country down to Third World Status well if this goes through ALL my predictions of US big business running Britain will come true. This can only come from the Donald ,s America First policy . After all lost lives lost in that fire in London and she purposes this ? gunpowder please and a map of the House of Commons – Guy Fawkes where are you when we need you . Britain ?? the laughing stock of this world can you imagine what the Germans will say ?

Member

We were pretty surprised too, Duncan. I was very much hoping it was a Daily Mash spoof http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/

Member

I’ll wait until that august journal Private Eye tells us the truth 😛

Member

I think this Conversation should have been kept for April Fools day.

However, I am seriously concerned that our government will allow companies to take more responsibility for compliance with regulations. I recently met an Environmental Health Officer, who shared my concern about the current campylobacter problem, where our Food Standards Agency continues to warn the public not to wash chicken because of the extent of contamination with campylobacter. He suggested that I looked up the FSA document ‘Regulating Our Future’, which will effectively mean that we are reliant on the companies behaving responsibly.

Member

I couldn’t agree more, Wavechange… we share your concerns and we’re keeping a close eye on what’s being said.

Member

I would doubt there would be any departure from using international standards as the basis for safety – largely BS EN ones in the case of the UK. Anything we in the UK manufacture will have to comply with these standards if we are to have international business.

What we need is a campaign to get compulsory registration of safety-dependent products at the point of sale, and proper resourcing of Trading Standards to police the system.

Perhaps Which? would publish the leaked email in full, including the source. I’d like to identify the nutcase who proposed such a stupid idea.

Member

I wish we had the leaked email – the best I can offer at the moment is the Evening Standard article: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/the-latest-idea-from-a-brexit-official-replace-eu-safety-checks-with-amazon-reviews-a3650231.html

Member
bishbut says:
6 October 2017

The government is trying to pass on all it’s responsibilities to everyone else ,it does not want to be responsible for anything at all .Why are MPs elected ? are they just a waste of time and money ? do any of them want to do anything at all think they all are !

Member

Now that is true Bishbut . It does have an ulterior motive though a lead-up to accepting a US trade deal at a terrible disadvantage to the ordinary British Public but a huge profit and more control of this country by US conglomerates . You may scoff at my words but just watch what happens and the sly way its put to the British Public .Satrap UK.

Member

I’m pretty sure this is a joke. Probably a gaggle of officials, somewhere, gathered round a screen cackling wildly as they watch the ensuing fallout.

Although Which? itself does have some uncomfortable experience with products it has sent for testing to its contracted laboratories, whose testing has accorded it ‘best buy status and then for several users who’ve bought on the strength of those reviews only to award it a ‘don’t buy’ through practical use. I can testify to that personally, in fact.

Member

Ian if this is a joke in the usual “Boris ” modus operandum ” then its not only the most stupid but one of the deadliest self inflicted attacks on Tory Party Central Office or its replacement. By no stretch of the imagination could it be called a “vote winner ” more like a “death rattle ” Its treating the CITIZENS of this country with the upmost contempt and arrogance as though they are exact;y as I keep saying – USA commercial Third World Fodder . and I resent that greatly no matter who/what party said it . Its demeaning . Why not make us all dual passport holders like some in this country ? that wold be the last insult . There are limits I will accept and this goes beyond them . Are we run by FOOLS ?

Member

Glad you see the joke 🙂

Member

Let’s hope it’s a joke, Ian!

Member

True…

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
6 October 2017

Just some comments on this barmy report and triggered by the need to correct an error in the article.

“In case you aren’t familiar with Amazon’s reviews, they’re created by registered Amazon members, and, according to Amazon’s website, you have to have been ‘successfully charged for the purchase of the physical or digital item’ in order to submit a review. ”

This is untrue. I can write a review on any product but will not be shown as a verified buyer. I have just done so. I do have an existing Amazon account which has been used for purchases so in that sense I am a member.

The only idea of the verified review being better is dependent on people not thinking the process through. It relies on people remembering to write or re-write a review several months down the line when its defects become obvious.

Furthermore if I wished to manipulate the system as a person I could buy, write a review and then return it. Or as a vendor “sell” to various people and then give them the money back taking the payment to Amazon as a cost of marketing.

Lastly research shows that some product enthusiasts write “reviews” rubbishing opposing brands.

The above are some of the reasons I think Which? can do a better job and is vital to provide a check on manipulated systems. Also bear in mind the professional reviewers sent goods for free via Amazon.

Member

Hi Patrick, thanks for flagging – I’ll do some further digging, but that was the explanation I was given from Amazon’s Ts&Cs.

Member

I’d be happy if Trading Standards were properly funded, I might trust reviews from them. Amazon reviews are a guide at best but nothing definitive.

Member

William- Before you are so generous in your acceptance of Amazon reviews click on US consumer help website – Ripoff Report under -Amazon complaints/ Reviews/ scams/lawsuits and frauds reported — one to 2,378 : http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/search/amazon

Member
Fre55die says:
6 October 2017

How amazingly dangerous can you get. There are hundreds of AMAZON sellers out there giving codes to get the products for a nominal price or free for a favorable review.

Member
Rick Graham says:
7 October 2017

There would be nothing to stop companies getting their staff, or paid shills, to write hundreds of good reviews on amazon, thereby pushing their products to the top of any list- It’d be a free for all!!………..

Member
Colin J Spencer says:
7 October 2017

Cant see the point of this at all because we already have the British Standards Institute (BSI) coupled to the BSI Kite Mark covering all products and materials and the vast majority of their standards tie into and run along side the relavant EU and American Standards.

As far as customer reviews are concerned most are totally biased and written by persons with zero technical knowledge of any kind and this applies to ALL reviews, not just those on Amazon!

Member

The point is Colin as the intro says the Conservative government want to REPLACE OUR Standards with Third World ones to make it easier for Donald,s US conglomerates to sell fake/ rubbish goods without a comeback that fall apart /blow up and kill people under the America First Policy –and the rest of the world ( foreigners ) thank god that America’s, selling them shoddy goods. I have never met a more craven attitude in my life -has this country no pride , has it sunk so low ?

Member

There is no evidence that the government, let alone the Prime Minister, has come anywhere near this nonsense even with the proverbial bargepole. It is the fakest news imaginable and could be – if it isn’t a total invention – a bit of out-of-hours e-mail banter by a couple of bored civil servants and planted by one of them as a spoof leak to the newspaper.

That anyone would take it even fractionally seriously is incredible. With all the tough meat of Brexit still having to be chewed it is inconceivable that time would be devoted to something like product safety marking and compliance which does not have to be changed.

The Evening Standard is a free London regional newspaper that is not noted for its veracity and whose editor [Osborne, initial G] is not averse to mischief.

Member

Well, that’s two of us who are convinced it’s a joke.

Member

No – you’re wrong Ian. It’s three of us. 🙂 At least. Perhaps a poll would extend that?

Why, whenever something as silly as this is publicised do we automatically think the worst? I suppose we are a nation of half empties. 🙁

However, as Which? is listened to, why did they write this stuff in the first place, and did they do any research at all to see if there is even a grain of possible half truth in it? If, so, they should provide the evidence. Perhaps the leaked email? But maybe they will surprise me.

Member

As mentioned before, the email was leaked and reported in the Evening Standard so we don’t have a copy of the full text of the email.

We still remain concerned that this is being considered as a potential change to the CE marking system in Brexit negotiations, especially as the email was in response to a document produced by techUK (technology industry trade body) on the CE marking system after Brexit.

BEIS responded to this leak stating:

‘Until we leave the EU, the UK Government continues to implement European regulations.

‘This correspondence does not indicate future policy direction, but was part of a normal engagement process with industry stakeholders.’

Member

We will need to produce and mark products in accordance with international standards to be able to sell products on the European and world markets, just as other foreign producers do. I cannot see any UK business changing that (and how they design, test and certify products is down to producers and suppliers, not government).

If we don’t CE mark we cannot sell in Europe. Is that likely?

@ldeitz, Perhaps you could provide links to the reports?

Member
Member

Hi Lauren – I have little confidence in leaving it up to companies to look after safety matters. I am still hoping that Which? will look into the use of plastics in the casings of white goods. Until action is taken, people will continue to lose their homes or worse as a result of appliance fires.

Member

Hi Wavechange – we are interested in the use of plastics in certain appliances. As you know, we’ve issued a call on fridge/freezer manufacturers to stop using non-flame retardant plastic backings in their appliances. We’re keen to collect any research or evidence that you might have found too – I know you’ve shared a bit already.

Member

Thanks Lauren. I’ll do a summary when I return from holiday.

Member

@ldeitz, Thanks Lauren. This a another link to techUK http://www.techuk.org/insights/opinions/item/11386-ce-marking-after-brexit

As I said above, opting out of CE marking would be suicidal (well, another way of putting what I said) for the reasons I gave. TechUK and their members are simply reiterating that.

Just because some internal email from a witless or ignorant “government official” says something peculiar does not mean it is gospel government policy. Why do we give it credence?

Any knowledge of international trade and the purpose of standards harmonisation would show that this is a nonsense. It will not happen.

Member

BSI can, I am sure, help on plastics, particularly in relation to the backs of fridges etc.

Member

@ldeitz, it might be interesting if you were to publish BSI’s response to this topic?

Member

wavechange, don’t forget to turn your heating down when you go away. Have a nice holiday. 🙂

Member

Thanks Malcolm I’m not away for another day, just rather busy. 🙁

As a member of the EU, the UK has avoided treatment of chicken etc. with chlorine bleach or peracetic acid, but once we have left I expect there will be pressure to use these chemical treatments, which are commonly used in the US.

Member

@malcolm-r thanks, that’s a link to an event about the paper I gave the link for in my previous comment.

The email may not indicate actual government policy, but it does show that consideration is being given to ideas on changing the CE marking – and the suggestion of using a reviews system like Amazon is particularly concerning. I don’t believe this is an internal email either, it seems to be correspondence sent externally and an email that was sent to industry. I can’t see that BSI has responded to this, but I’d be happy to post a link to their response if they did.

Member

This is the original BSI paper on Brexit https://www.bsigroup.com/LocalFiles/en-GB/Brexit/Brexit-product-conformity.pdf

As far as exporting is concerned, we would not be able to without using international standards and CE marking to assure compliance. As I said above.

And why should we abandon CE marking as a requirement for imported goods when it is simply a system that is used to state compliance with relevant international standards that we will continue to use? An Amazon review (that is supposed to look at customer satisfaction or otherwise) is normally nothing at all to do with product safety; that is what CE marking is for.

Looking at the logic of this would suggest it really does not have any credibility.

I think that starting a topic “A leaked government email has revealed a strange suggestion to replace the European standards mark that indicates if a product is considered safe by the manufacturer. Instead, it suggests using Amazon reviews with the implication that this might be serious government policy is not a responsible way for Which? to report. I’d prefer to see the background to this properly researched before raising alarm bells. Relying on “news reports” is not a good way to make a serious report without substantiation, surely?

The news suggests that government officials have been approaching industry groups and asking for volunteers that would no longer have to demonstrate that they comply with existing product standards.” I’m not sure what this means.

Member

This is a reasonable reply Lauren justifying your posting of this issue . Unlike some here I don’t look on this as a “joke ” I take it deadly serious and to brush it off flippantly does a great dis-service to this country . I firmly believe its part of ongoing Trade negotiations with the Donald who wants everything his way along with his US conglomerates operating in this country . It is a black day for the integrity of this country that we are being pulled down quickly to Third World operating status , why not call us UK-Porto Rica ? and an American colony AS a Nationalist I am aggrieved how can America a very nationalistic country be allowed to impose its external dogma business values on us ? Has TM not got the guts to stand up to him ? WE buy his rubbish military equipment and what does he do >> impose 300 PERCENT TAX on Bombardier affecting 1000,s in NI. Mugs ?? you better believe-it I am still with you Lauren until HMG come out and deny it .

Member

Is the move to have a resource similar to Amazon Reviews or to use Amazon Reviews?

In my view, Amazon Reviews is not a good place to leave a report about product safety. Although I like dealing with Amazon, I have problems with idea of using a service that is intended to drive sales of products to provide safety information. The issues here would refer to ANY internet trader’s review system.

Here are my problems with this idea.
1) Products that aren’t sold by the internet trader would not be covered.
2) People might not want to leave a review of certain products on a PUBLIC website
3) As remarked earlier [@Rick Graham], trolls (both human and automated) might leave glowing reviews of a product that the manufacturer was keen to sell.
5) What if I wanted to complain about one of the internet traders’ *own* products? Should we rely on their keeping on-line a harsh but factual review?

Let’s push for an independent body to supervise product safety.

Member
Iain says:
7 October 2017

It’s a rubbish idea. Safety is the remit of an expert who takes it apart looks at how it’s built and makes sure it’s safe. Average Joe (like myself) has no idea of safety

Member

No idea about safety Ian -sorry wrong I spent my life at theoretical end of engineering not the theory end although I do have some qualifications in it. AS an maintenance engineer in many capacities I learned the hard way of taking stuff apart repairing it , changing the design to a safer model all across the spectrum , so to say -the “average Joe has no idea ” well I am an “average Joe and I DO have an idea “

Member

@ldeitz, a lot of sceptics about this topic. Would you like to put our minds at rest and own up to a spoof? Or…….. do you have the email? 🙁

Member

It’s possibly not a spoof – but the interpretation of the news leak might be a leap too far.

Member

If this is a “spoof ” I ,for one will be very angry . I take Which at its word as a reputable organisation . I trust in its word , I am far from perfect but I expect an organisation I put my loyalty to to have a much higher standard than any of the big social networks as it deals with HMG and its reputation is on the line . Trust has to be earned and if I lose trust it takes me a long time to forget.

Member

Hi Malcolm, I’ve responded above, it’s not a spoof and we’ve followed up with BEIS about our concerns over the suggestion to water down safety protections. We don’t have the email as it was leaked to the Evening Standard https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/the-latest-idea-from-a-brexit-official-replace-eu-safety-checks-with-amazon-reviews-a3650231.html

Member

My concern is simply we do not know what the email said and in what context, nor the status of the author, so it is hard to form an opinion.

If the ES found it so worrying why did they not publish it? They appear to be the only ones to know about this. Why leak it to a London rag and not to a national? I wonder if that has anything to do with Theresa’s best friend? 🙂

Member

The very recently retired Which? Board member Mr Mullins?

Andrew Mullins Chief Executive, Knowledge & Networking Division, Informa

“Andrew Mullins joined Lever Brothers (Unilever) after graduating from Bristol University in 1986. He subsequently moved to United Distillers in 1995 (to become Diageo in 1997); News International in 2001 and Associated Newspapers in 2007.
While Andrew was MD at the Evening Standard, it changed ownership in February 2009 (bought by Alexander Lebedev), was taken free in October 2009 and now has a circulation of 900k. In May 2010 Andrew also became MD of The Independent, therefore heading up all of Lebedev’s UK newspaper operations.
In September 2014, Andrew joined Informa PLC, becoming CEO of its newly formed Knowledge and Networking division.
Andrew remains on the Boards of ESL, IPL and London Live as a Non-Executive Director, a role he has also held at Which? Limited, since March 2011.”

Member

I had George in mind, Patrick 🙁

Member

The few interviews from our CEO seem to have appeared in the Independent which is nice. : )

As for George Osborne and his multi-jobbing I regard that as the biggest slap in the face to public opinion that might possibly be orchestrated. Still Russian meddling in politics is unlikely isn’t it.

Member

Hello both, can you please ensure your comments are on-topic? These last few comments don’t seem to related to the Convo, if you wish to discuss this further could you please move the conversation to The Lobby -https://conversation.which.co.uk/travel-leisure/the-lobby/
Thanks 🙂

Member

Russian “meddling ” in politics is being proven the ultimate fake news why don’t you ask George Soros and his “colour revolution” financing – oh loo its raining must be a “Russian plot !.A middle eat country “meddling ” in UK politics -just recently caught out but that’s okay they are Friends of the UK/PM + Cabinet so its played down. Same as the German’s blaming Russia the same our own Secret Service detained a BRIT in his flat on computer charges relating to it but never mind its reached hysteria in America so the UK must obey the Donald.

Member

@ldeitz, my comment was made on topic – the report you cite appeared in the Evening Standard. The editor is George Osbourne – not sympathetic to the government. I think it is worth noting this as there may possibly be some opportunism here. It seems odd that only the ES seemed to have this email.

At the moment I am concerned that without any real evidence, Which? are maybe inflaming a situation unnecessarily. I’d expect Which? to be looking hard at this before raising fears in the mind of the public.

Have you confirmed the situation with BEIS? I would have thought you might have done this before going into print.

As I have said above, I can see no reason why the UK should abandon the use of international standards. Nor do I see as other than ludicrous anyone in their right mind would suggest using Amazon as an arbiter of safety in products. I would have thought this line of argument might have set alarm bells ringing?

But, you get surprises in life 🙂

Member

Why has Russia entered into this Convo, duncan?

Member

In this world of Michael Gove suggesting selling pig’s ears to China and Liam Fox claiming that the “EU trade deal after Brexit should be ‘easiest in history’ to get”, why are we surprised and suspicious that this might be a hoax? To quote Owen Jones (the Guardian 19 Sept 2017), “a Stephen King film set to the Benny Hill theme tune: that’s Britain’s current political plight.” This is only the latest in a series of plots twists and turns.

Member

So true.

Member

Here are BSI’s statements on the UK, standards, and “brexit”:
http://www.techuk.org/insights/opinions/item/11386-ce-marking-after-brexit
https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/about-bsi/uk-national-standards-body/EUReferendum/

As the relevant institutions are not government ones I see no reason to bother about a leaked email from some uninformed lackey. Industry and service providers will continue to use the necessary international standards and marking because that will allow then to continue trading.

Member

It took me two minutes to find a counterfeit product on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Delippo®-Replacement-Computer-Monitors-Projectors-Black/dp/B01N9JKOVL/ref=sr_1_8?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1507630074&sr=1-8&keywords=computer+power+lead

The photo will disappear and the link will be broken when Amazon removes the product from sale.

The product description refers to: “UK Standard Plug” and “Certification: BS-1363/A CE ROHS Certification”

One of the photos shows that the cable is 3-core ( red, blue and green/yellow). The plug has a partially sleeved Earth pin and the plastic would prevent an Earth connection being made when plugged into a BS 1363 socket.

THIS IS A DANGEROUS COUNTERFEIT PRODUCT

More examples of this and related problems can be found here: http://www.bs1363.org.uk

Maybe Which? could get Amazon to take responsibility for making sure that products advertised on their website are safe. Others have tried and failed.

Never mind. There are sixteen five star reviews on Amazon and the only poor review says: “Not what I thought”. The same Amazon Marketplace trader offers other products with partially-sleeved Earth pins.

Member

Hi Wavechange, thanks for sharing this – we’re taking a look at this now.

Member

Thanks Lauren. I expect that Amazon will remove the counterfeit products promptly but more may appear. David Peacock (former contributor ‘Socketman’ on Which? Convo) has spent a lot of time pursuing this sort of problem – and it’s not confined to Amazon.

Member

CE marking cannot apply to BS 1363 plugs (or sockets, or socket strips) as they are covered only by a UK standard. Delippo list that it is CE marked.

As far as I can see Delippo only appear under the Amazon.co.uk banner – https://www.amazon.co.uk/stores/node/9948456031?_encoding=UTF8&field-lbr_brands_browse-bin=DELIPPO&ref_=bl_dp_s_web_9948456031

I can’t find any other reference to them on the web – perhaps someone else can (duncan? 🙂 )

When you see a product seemingly marketed under Amazon’s it should meet all relevant standards. Surely it is time Which? took this general problem with Amazon by the scruff of the neck and worked to protect unsuspecting consumers?

Member

I thought of mentioning this but the problem is that chargers and power supplies that plug into a 13 amp socket do (or should) be CE marked. You and I can understand the difference, but not everyone will.

Have a look at the laptop charger and it looks as if someone has Photoshopped the pins, maybe to conceal the partial sleeving of the Earth pin. Unfortunately they have done the Live and Neutral pins too.

I looked up Delippo and found a suggestion that they might be fiddling their reviews: Fakespot has analyzed19products and201reviews forDELIPPOproducts.The Fakespot algorithm considers60.0%of those reviews to be unreliable.

Member

Hi Wavechange, we’ve spoken to Amazon and they’re investigating the product now. Thanks for sharing.

Member

Thanks again Lauren. It will be interesting to see if they remove all the questionable products.

Member

socketman
last active 1 year, 2 months ago

Probably depressed by the lack of action. He would be an automatic nomination by me for a Consumer Award.

It is a shame that the recently introduced award for Sharon White seems tainted given the number of Ofcom members on board. And particularly given it is a department working rather than a man fighting a cause to stop electrocutions and fires caused by Amazon’s deliberate policy of a “free” market.
which.co.uk/news/2017/05/which-awards-2017-winners-revealed/

Member

As far as I know he has stopped publishing articles and it is a year or two since we last exchanged emails about electrical safety.

We have tried repeatedly to get Which? to take action to put an end to Amazon and their Marketplace traders selling products with the wrong plug: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/plugs-two-pin-british-amazon-electrical-appliances/

We need the help of Which? @ldeitz It may seem like an inconvenience to receive a product with the wrong plug but depending on how it is used, there can be dangers of fire and electrocution.

Member

@ldeitz, what about the general problem of Amazon being the apparent umbrella for the sale of many unsafe products? Can Which? not give a legal ruling on their responsibility, and do something to prevent the many people inadvertently buying potentially unsafe products? Or work with Trading Standards? Is Amazon too big to tackle?

Member

Here is a link to another dodgy product on the Amazon website: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dell-Inspiron-Adapter-Charger-Included/dp/B006UQVUIO/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

The plug with a partially-sleeved Earth pin shows this is a counterfeit product. The reviews are not good. One reviewer described it as dangerous and costly and suspected it might not be a genuine Dell product after it failed and burned his dining room carpet – but still gave it two stars.

The only good news is that this charger is currently out of stock.

Member

I’ve looked at phone chargers and batteries and searched hard to find those sold by the original manufacturers. Just looking at prices, it seems unlikely but if not this is deception and these are sourced through the Amazon portal. Safety or not, Amazon should be held to account if they are helping in the distribution of counterfeit products.

Spending a little money on a selection of products, then examining them, might well reveal the flaws and enable a case to be put together – sort of “product testing” but to warn of those that are counterfeit and/or unsafe. Which? have done this in the past, but as far as I know not to expose the source and make the general public aware.

@ldeitz, is this an investigation Which? might pursue

Member

Hi Malcolm, we’re certainly interested in evidence that you may find. Amazon has asked for us to share such details with them if they’re reported to us, this was in response to us raising the two-pin plug issue with them again earlier this year.

Member

Could Which? not simply buy suspect products and check them?

Member

I have identified some suspect problems today and have little doubt that they will be removed if Which? contacts Amazon. That’s what happened when ‘Socketman’ reported dangerous electrical products.

As can be seen from the reviews left by purchasers, few people are aware that there may be a problem unless there is premature failure or some other issue.

Plugs with no fuse, a partially-sleeved Earth pin or poor quality plastic mouldings will be obvious to a minority, but what if the charger etc. does not contain appropriate safety devices, or there is insufficient insulation of a charger lead from mains voltage. The only way of knowing there is a problem would be to dismantle (often break apart) the product. Hopefully manufacturers do this but we have no way of knowing.

Member

UK plugs without fuses can be found online and are a fire risk if a fault develops. Here is an example of from the Amazon UK website:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Extension-Charging-Protection-Appliences-Travelling/product-reviews/B073ZDVWB6/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar

Looking at the one star reviews shows that one person has spotted the unfused plug and the other had a bang and flash.

There are 22 five star reviews. I wonder if anyone has noticed that the three sockets differ from the BS 1363 sockets we are all familiar with.

Member
Member

The sockets in the photo look as if they are designed to take a variety of plugs, probably including a two-pin Europlug. Without a fuse in the plug of the extension cable, the only protection will be the 32 amp circuit breaker or 30 amp fuse in the distribution board (fuse box). The Europlug is designed for a current of 2.5 amps. It will work but if there is a fault there could well be a fire.

Member

I posted a link about a suspect laptop charger that was apparently sold by Dell, according to the Amazon website: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/amazon-safety-brexit/#comment-1503350

Looking at the other “Dell” products I wonder if they are genuine Dell products.

I have my concerns about other websites too but I’m focusing on Amazon because it is relevant to our topic.

Member

We are in agreement (?). Can we not persuade Which? to buy a number of suspect products from the Amazon site and check whether they are genuine and safe (or not). Chargers, batteries, plugs and socket strips as examples. Any other suggestions?

You would think if manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, Dell say saw counterfeit products being advertised they would want to take action themselves. Or is Amazon too “important” to challenge? The two-pin plug saga has gone on and on without any effective action taken, it seems.

Member

I’m sure that manufacturers are very well aware of counterfeit products. Back in 2013, Apple offered free iPhone chargers in exchange for counterfeit and third party adapters, albeit for a limited period of time and maybe as a publicity stunt: https://www.apple.com/uk/support/usbadapter-takeback/ Counterfeit Dyson fans feature in a recent ‘Fake Britain’ programme. It’s very difficult to know whether a product is a third party product that complies with safety requirement or a dangerous counterfeit. We don’t know to what extent manufacturers do take action to alert the authorities to dangerous counterfeit products.

Which? could buy suspect chargers etc, but from what I have seen over the years, Which? generally identifies problems (sometimes using undercover investigation) or is informed of them, and then passes its concerns to all the relevant organisations. Here it would be relevant to contact Trading Standards, both over the potentially dangerous products and the failure of Amazon to ensure products on its website are safe. I would like it confirmed that since money goes into Amazon’s account it must have overall responsibility and cannot simply leave it up to Marketplace traders to behave responsibly. Even if Which? was to buy some products that look as if they may be unsafe, that would not help with those products that look OK but might be a fire risk or could electrocute.

Since Which? raised concerns about two-pin plugs years ago, I’m deeply disappointed that Amazon and others are still selling them. I believe that it is probably seen as a convenience issue and the dangers are not recognised. That would fit in with us being assured by Patrick Steen that Amazon will exchange goods with the wrong plug.

I don’t want to be prescriptive about how the problem is addressed but will keep pushing for an effective solution.

Member

It bothers me that nothing has been done. The business seems to just go on as normal. Which? is there to protect consumers. I’d like it to tell us what action it can take or, if none, why not.

“Spot checks” by Which? could identify if Amazon is failing in its responsibilities to allow the sale of safe and genuine products through its portal. If that were widely publicised then maybe Amazon would think harder about its policy.

Member

Would it be fair for Which? to target Amazon when other retailers are also selling dodgy products? Imagine if Which? had targeted Marks & Spencer a few years ago for selling chicken that was significantly more contaminated than that sold by Tesco. Many people love Amazon and would not want to see it singled out.

Which? does focus on particular companies when there is an obvious reason – for example VW over the emissions problems, Whirlpool over fire risk, and Dixons over their supplementary charges for laptops.

As with the problem of many being overcharged for energy, I want something done about companies selling dangerous counterfeit goods online but I’m happy to leave it up to Which? to decide on the best strategy.

Maybe a service like ActionFraud could be used by the public to report obvious concerns but that could allow many dangerous items to go undetected.

Member

Seems to be a failure of logic surely. Ignoring the biggest seller of fake dangerous goods on the basis of “fairness” is absurd.

Amazon and fairness anyway would seem an odd concept given the extreme lengths they have gone to in order to drive out or weaken competitors so they can buy them.

Of course Amazon are popular given the seamier side is hidden in a welter of favourable media inches. However Which? surely needs only look at the dangerous stuff and consider what it’s mandate is and whether a judicial review of TSO’s not enforcing the law in respect of dangerous articles being in the “marketplace”.

Member

People may have forgotten that through Amazon many dangerous motorised toys with lithium batteries were imported to the UK.

When they started burning in people’s homes Amazon refunded the money and said dump the dangerous goods at the recycling.
So there was no effective recall at all, and the clearing up of the duff appliances was a cost to the respective Councils.

How many people pocketed the refund and then sold the machine at a boot fair or are still using them?

AND as for drugs unsafe and fake
blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2014/05/is-it-illegal-to-buy-drugs-on-amazon.html
eimed.com/2013/11/amazon-sells-fake-counterfeit-nutritional-products-to-unsuspecting-customers/

Member

I completely agree with you, Patrick, but I strongly doubt that Which? would focus on a single company selling counterfeit goods when others are doing the same. I also agree that it would be worth considering a judicial review, as Which? did with Peterborough Trading Standards, the primary authority in the Whirlpool problems.

In my opinion, Amazon has been allowed to become too large and powerful, but that’s capitalism for you. I have bought little more than books from Amazon and don’t do that now.

You may remember that ‘Socketman’ reported that Amazon UK was selling pepper spray, which is illegal in this country. Searching for pepper spray shows products that state they are legal in the UK. He seems to have succeeded there. Let’s all pull together and try and get Which? to take action to put an end to dangerous electrical goods sold online.

The more examples we can find the better.