/ Home & Energy

End Dangerous Products: the changes we’ve made and where next

burnt tumble dryer

Our campaign has pushed for major recalls, strengthening the regulatory system and identifying new challenges for four years. Here’s what we’ve achieved and where we’re heading.

When white goods manufacturer Whirlpool first announced a fault affecting more than five million of its tumble dryers in the UK in November 2015, resulting in them posing a fire risk, Which? was one of the first voices to call for an immediate recall of the affected appliances.

The company’s failure to do so and its flawed handling of a serious safety incident exposed the shortcomings of the UK’s product safety system, leading us to launch a campaign calling not just for Whirlpool to recall its dangerous dryers but for wider reform of the safety system.

And lots of you agreed with us. More than 165,000 people have now signed our petition calling for an end to dangerous products, while thousands of campaign supporters got involved by sharing their concerns with MPs and the regulator or telling us about safety issues they experienced here on Which? Conversation.

We’ve achieved some big wins as a result, bringing about real improvements to the system.

Our progress so far

In January 2018, the government set up a dedicated national regulator for product safety – the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

In July of this year, the regulator published new guidance on the use of non-disclosure clauses relating to safety incidents, after Which? raised concerns about the misuse of such agreements. 

On Whirlpool, last year the company was finally forced to recall its up to 800,000 unsafe tumble dryers still in UK homes, also publishing the full list of its 627 affected models that Which? had repeatedly called for.

As well as being offered a free replacement machine or repair, affected customers now also have the option of a partial refund. 

And it appears that Whirlpool is learning lessons when it comes to product safety. In December 2019, the company announced that it was voluntarily recalling more than 500,000 washing machines – again because they posed a fire-risk.

While there were still issues with its initial handling, the recall has resulted in one of the highest success rates for a white goods recall in the UK.

What happens next?

We’ve made great strides together in recent years but this doesn’t mark the end of our calls for change. 

We’re continuing to make the case for the new Office for Product Safety and Standards to be made independent with a clear duty for consumer protection and public safety.

This will ensure the UK’s product safety system will be able to meet new and global challenges head on and keep unsafe products from reaching people’s homes. 

Our testing has also uncovered large numbers of unsafe products being sold on online marketplaces, so we’re pushing for the sites to have greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their platforms – and hope to have your continued support as we do. 

For now, we want to take a moment to thank you for the change you’ve helped make so far.  


Which? has reported on dangerous products on sale on online marketplaces and reported its findings to the Office of Public Safety and Standards. I am not aware that any action has been taken.

I can still find examples of potentially dangerous products from reading Amazon reviews: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lloytron-F2003WH-Staywarm-Upright-Settings/dp/B000WIYILW/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

The one star reviews mention the plastic case melting, smoke, sparks and there are plenty of references to the plug overheating (Some of these are likely to be due to the owner plugging the heater into a damaged socket).

The seller is not some unheard of company based in the Far East but JC Trade Supplies in Bradford.

Does the problem have to become worse before action is taken about potentially dangerous electrical goods? I am not making any allegations but invite readers to look through the numerous pages of one star reviews.

Did this meet the relevant safety standard?
This was available from B&Q and Screwfix.
It is not whether the seller is unheard of but from where they source the products they sell and whether or not they are diligent in checking their integrity – for example, is their provenance genuine. A defective (non-compliant) socket tower was listed by a well known UK seller.

We must prosecute, and fine significant amounts, companies that sell products that do not meet safety regulations. Only by making the sale of non-compliant not worthwhile might we begin to stop this irresponsible/criminal behaviour.

It was reading that story that prompted me to look at fan heaters sold on Amazon.

At least there is a chance that owners of the Colenso heaters might get to know that they have been recalled. For example B&Q display prominent notices in their stores and there is a link to recalled products on the homepage of their website. Screwfix features the recall on their homepage.

I agree that action must be taken against companies that sell or distribute dangerous products. It’s the job of the government of the day to make sure that happens.

At present online marketplaces are, we have been told, not responsible for what their traders sell and I do not know what if any legal action can be taken against companies based overseas.

From the Which? article: “Owners of the GoodHome Colenso FH-115 have been urged to return their heaters for a refund or dispose of them at a local recycling centre.”

If the fan heaters are returned to the manufacturer or retailer there is a good chance they will be destroyed. If the owner is left with the responsibility of disposing them they may continue to be used (on the basis they are still working fine). If they are taken to a recycling centre, they could be taken by visitors and some recycling centres collect electrical goods for reuse if they appear to be in good condition.

My question was – did these heaters meet the relevant UK regulations for safety. If not then I think Kingfisher should be prosecuted.

This is a manufacturer’s recall:

Electric shock and fire.

B&Q has identified a potential risk of electric shock and fire when using this product.
In some cases, the product may overheat causing damage to the case.”

We do not usually get to know whether this or other recalled products are compliant with standards, certainly in the case of electrical goods.

“Failed” products are one clear example of what should be investigated by trading standards as they may not comply with relevant safety standards. Retailers/distributors have the responsibility of selling safe products and should be prosecuted if they don’t. Otherwise we will never get a hold on proper consumer protection.

I agree Malcolm but until TS are given sufficient funding I do not see much chance of progress soon. Maybe if TS had access to money raised from fines, as was suggested recently, that would help.

We have suggested that before. However as fines can go into general government funds then Trading Standards organisations could (should) be centrally funded.

We keep repeating that we need to properly resource the organisation that is officially appointed to protect consumer safety. That, currently, is Trading Standards.

To enforce safety regulations requires resources – money and qualified people. Until we do that, and until we prosecute and penalise offenders, irresponsible and criminal traders will continue to harm us.

Here is a page from a blog on the Trading Standards website, where an employee says that the council system is broken: http://tradingstandardsblog.co.uk/do-we-need-a-national-trading-standards-department

With national and multinational companies it makes little sense for a local TS office to deal with problems.

How do we get action from our government?

Patrick Taylor says:
11 March 2021

Perhaps the first step would be ..
How do we get any action from the self-claimed consumer champion

How many subscribers have EVER written to the Trustees on these matters where the charity appears oblivious or acts supinely ? The Trustees are totally responsible for the good name and direction of the charity.

That is an interesting outline of a better structure for trading standards. I would like to see the words ‘consumer protection’ somewhere in the narrative to locate it better in people’s minds.

It could be that a thematic approach might be better where major appliances, or DIY products, or travel and holidays, or groceries [for example] each have their own bureaux.

Being pre-coronavirus, the suggestions do not give any consideration to the enormous on-line market that has changed the face of personal purchasing or to the trades in energy, communications, digital experiences, and so forth.

I think there is still a case for a local function in each county town or major city and for localised inspection and testing [historically called ‘weights and measures’].

It would probably take the reading of every edition of Which? magazine over ten years to cover the ground that needs to be addressed by trading standards, so a very flexible organisation is necessary able to react to emerging situations while maintaining activity on routine functions.

Scams and consumer fraud tend to be dominant themes at present and get a lot of coverage but little practical action or remedy; have we got the priorities wrong, or is the expertise lacking? Is it easier to deal with problems arising from selling dolls eyes and fly-papers, rather than with equity release or funeral plans, so that’s where the energy goes?

Perhaps a national debate is called for led by a leading consumer organisation.

“One swallow doesn’t make a Summer” and the term “broken” is much overused. However, it has been clear for years that trading standards was underfunded and under-resourced. We have discussed it many times.

In my view there should be a National Trading Standards – extending the existing one – to cover national issues, including national traders. There should also be local Trading Standards who cover local issues and traders, for example and to pass national issues to the national body. The consumer should be able to report appropriate issues directly to either, not through a charity and see what is being done.

Which? have had little to say about how the trading system should be policed. I would like them campaign and lobby Government to restore national and local trading standards into an effective policing organisation. We do not need to go through all the rigmarole of setting up a new body; just make the existing one effective.

@gmartin, George, have Which? any interest in doing this?

Patrick Taylor says:
11 March 2021

If one were cynical you may regard the silence of W? in the last decade on the destruction of Trading Standards as an appreciation of the gap it left for Which? Trusted Trader to commercialise.

There is a huge problem in the UK of bodies that nominally are responsible but in actuality are either paper tigers or lack any desire to be effective.

This is compounded by the plethora of initials /names AND the almost clockwork regularity of the merging of departments and changing of responsibilities.

If one were suspicious that this is actually a deliberate policy to fudge and confuse one might look to the early last century when Governments seemed to able to run without constant name changes.

Private Eye was always finding easy meat with the Fundamentally Supine Authority or the Fundmantally Complicit Authority. Originally the SIB founded 1985.
” The defunct Financial Services Authority (FSA), invariably referred to as “The Fundamentally Supine Authority” in reference to its reluctance to act and its seemingly close relationship with the industry it was supposed to regulate, often contrasting its performance with the swift and draconian methods of its United States counterparts.
The FSA’s replacement body, the Financial Conduct Authority, is usually referred to as the “Financial C**k-up Authority”, or the “Fundamentally Complicit Authority” – underlining that it appears to act in a manner little differently from its predecessor.”

It also revealed the ineptness of the CQC
“Residential establishments, unlike hospitals, can easily be closed, or sold, and reopened with a new identity. Private Eye reported in November 2015 that most of the 34 homes closed under Cynthia Bower after failing their inspection later reopened with a new name or under new ownership, but with similar problems. Compassion in Care told the magazine that if a home changed name or ownership it was then listed by the CQC as “new services” and “uninspected” by the CQC, and there was no link to reports on the same establishment under different ownership, even if the new owners were linked to the previous owners, and there was no follow up inspection if problems had been identified. They had found 152 homes reregistered as new, when they had only changed owner or name. The commission had identified safety concerns in more than 40% of the homes it had inspected, and 10% were rated as inadequate.”

In the case of residential homes of course W? had an interest as it was reproducing the CQC information despite this significant failing in oversight. You might say W? was complicit in the fudge by not pointing out this major defect.

It also did not discuss the financial takeover of numerous homes for the purpose of asset stripping and eventual collapse under the debt-loading. These being entirley foreseeable and to the detriment of consumers. There is some academic research showing that run for profit homes have less staff and more deaths.

W? cannot change everything but it most certainly could be more openly critical of both commercial companies and of oversight bodies. It does a huge disservice to readers and to it’s reputation by being blind and or mute to consumer wrongs.

Not something I’d be able to answer I’m afraid Malcolm. However we did release the following views to press very recently:

“The government must seize this opportunity to put in place a world class product safety regime that ensures consumers can have confidence that protections will keep pace with technology.

“We want to see the current regime enhanced and gaps addressed. This includes ensuring that online marketplaces are given more legal responsibility for preventing unsafe products from being sold on their sites.

“We are calling for an independent regulator to oversee the system and ensure it keeps pace with market developments – and crucially puts consumer interests first. The government should therefore make the Office for Product Safety and Standards an independent, consumer-focused regulator as part of this review.”

In response to: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-modernise-product-safety-laws-to-ensure-theyre-fit-for-21st-century

I’ve just had an email from B&Q about a recall of a heater. Not one that I had bought and they only had my email because I have ordered online before but not opted in for marketing. I’m delighted I got this email and just goes to show recalls can be communicated better than they usually are. Well done B&Q!

Thanks Abby. Here is a recall notice about the heater in question: https://media.diy.com/is/content/Kingfisher/5059340046921_lgl_EN_BQpdf

It’s good to give credit where it is deserved and there are companies that do behave responsibly and act promptly when they know there is a problem.

Patrick Taylor says:
11 March 2021

I was slightly distressed at your response Abby. You appear to be condoning the use of your address for any recall message whether it is relevant to you or not.

The growth of this concept with mutiple retailers no doubt would be a mountain of recall notices. Surely a messgae to those who bought it from was the correct move.

Anything else either indicates poor use of database, a way of checking your email address is still active, and of course keeping their name in your consciousness.

Until there is an effective recall system I don’t have a problem with what B&Q have done here, and Abby is certainly not complaining. There are not many recalls at present: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/product-safety-database-unsafe-products

With so many buying on credit or debit cards you might suppose that would be one possible route to target purchases?

Which? have been vocal in demanding “full product recalls” – Whirlpool tumble dryers and washing machines for example – while totally ignoring the fact that such a recall is impossible. No system to do it. Despite being told of ways a proper recall system could be set up they have made no apparent effort to develop suggestions and put them forward.

What is the point in claiming to protect consumers when you avoid making constructive proposals?

@dieseltaylor If I buy in store they would not have details of my purchase. As this is a serious safety issue I am more than happy for them to do this. I don’t think they would be doing it for things that are lower risk as it would reflect badly on the company to be constantly told their products are not safe. In the absence of a national recall system this is the next best thing.

@malcolm-r I think that’s a bit unfair. There are many different ways that a recall system could work and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. As a campaign it needs to have a clear message to put pressure on the institutions that would be implementing a recall system. If you talk about specifics in a campaign people will get caught up in the detail of it and will be less likely to engage with it.

You have to remember, people like us are not… ummmm… ‘normal’?!? Most people are not as invested as we are and need a simple message to cut through everything else they have going on in their lives.

The Office of Public Safety and Standards now has a weekly list of recalls. It does not go back further than January (maybe that will change), it is not searchable and you cannot sign up to be notified of updates by email: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/product-safety-database-unsafe-products

Electrical Safety First has a more comprehensive list but it is not always up to date and although email notification used to work fine it no longer does for me: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/product-recalls/

CTSI has a searchable list of recalls, but problems with electrical products are buried amongst food recalls, many of which are only relevant to those with food allergies and intolerances: https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/product-recalls-and-safety-notices

As Abby says we have busy lives and I think we need to establish the most effective ways of getting information to as many people as possible.

dieseltaylor says:
12 March 2021

Abby you did not buy the product subject to the recall. There is no linkage to you and to the product.

I can see clearly that there is either ccock-up or it is deliberate for the reasons I have outlined.

If we look at the larger view say B&Q have a million peoples email adresses of which 5000 have bought the product. You are applauding perhaps 995,000 messages that are irrelevant to the recipients – is this a definition of spam?.

Now perhaps if we go slightly further I would suggest that my view is put to ICO. AFAIR there are previous dealt cases of contacts being made on the basis of minimal reasons.

I am registered with B&Q and I did not receive an email about the recall mentioned by Abby, and I cannot remember receiving information about other recalls. Like Screwfix they do send email receipts, though this is optional. I agree that it would be best to contact those who had bought products.

Abby – I cannot agree with your response to Malcolm in relation to how Which? has dealt with recalls. Which? has completely failed to engage with those of us who have been trying to suggest ways of making product recalls work. There has been no reaction either for or against which is very disappointing. Dismissing proposals by ignoring them is a form of insolence if not contempt.

I often feel that Which? should stop seeing everything as a campaign and pay more attention to what some of its loyal and dedicated subscribers are saying on important issues. I believe more would be gained by Which? getting into a position where government wanted to listen to it rather than constantly looking for the hostile or negative line. The unassailable fact is that Which? today has less influence with legislators, the government and the regulatory authorities than it did fifty years ago.

Demanding impractical solutions does not enhance Which?’s reputation and is not worthy of a mature representative organisation.

dieseltaylor says:
12 March 2021

I always recommend at looking how other countries deal with this problem and see how it could be adopted.

In France there is this site: oulah.fr
Depuis 2015, Oulah ! a répertorié
5389 rappels de produits en France.
which is searchable and will send a weekly email for free.

There is the government site here: economie.gouv.fr/dgccrf/securite/avis-rappels-produits

The dgcrf is a very serious department indeed and fraud is the f in its title.

Within the Ministry of the Economy, the DGCCRF ensures the proper functioning of markets, for the benefit of consumers and businesses.

The DGCCRF acts in favour of :

compliance with competition rules
the economic protection of consumers
the safety and conformity of products and services.

As a control authority, it intervenes :

in all areas of consumption (food and non-food products, services)
at all stages of economic activity (production, processing, import, distribution);
whatever the form of trade: shops, e-commerce sites or sites linked to the collaborative economy, etc.

I purchased Beldray 1.2kW Halogen Heater from Argos. This Heater caught fire at home!!! Thank God I felt the smell of burning plastic (which might be poisonous), and turned this heater off immediatelly, thus saving our house. I reported this issue to Argos, but it does not seem that they are too concerned. Promised a refund, but it does not seem that they will do anything about this hazardous heater.

Hi Katie – I’m sorry to hear your story and fortunately you were there at the time. The fumes from burning plastics can be toxic so it’s important to avoid breathing them.

The official advice is as follows: “If you are a consumer and want to report a dangerous product as a consumer, please contact Citizens Advice.” If you have photos that would be useful. It would also be worth contacting Beldray, the manufacturer, Beldray, which might want to look at the damaged heater.

Manufacturers tend to issue a recall when there have been a number of incidents, so it’s essential that they get to know whenever there is a problem.

It would be good to hear if you get a positive response from Beldray.

It would also be useful to know if you got a positive response from Citizens’ Advice. I would much rather you could report these problems to Trading Standards, whose official job is to protect UK consumers from unsafe products.

dieseltaylor says:
18 March 2021

Seems almost amusing that we have an article about dangerous products but AFAIR Which? has never discussed or campaigned on chemicals/compounds that are long term dangerous. Que Choisir does and provides an app to help shoppers …


Because it is long term does not make a lesser danger. Research showing a 60% drop in sperm production and alterations to genitals and sexual desire are probably extremely important. The UK remarkably keeps dosing furniture with a dangerous fire retardant ….

Raju Anupam Sinha says:
25 March 2021

I dislike companies whom cheat likeTalk Talk.

Many goods bought are faulty and difficult to get money back.


“We test according to the latest British Standard BS EN 1888:2019, with our experts checking everything from choking and entrapment hazards to the stability of the pushchair and handlebar strength. In the last year we’ve found 31 pushchairs with safety risks. Nine pushchairs have had serious enough failures to be named Don’t Buys.

I would suggest that making them Don’t Buys is insufficient; surely if they are dangerous Which? should be asking for them to be withdrawn from sale.

@gmartin, George, glad to see you back. Can you ask Which? to tell us what they are doing about the nine serious failures to protect consumers?

Hi Malcolm. Everything there is to know is already in the story I’m afraid. Which? has advised consumers not to buy the products that failed Which? safety tests – a decision that isn’t taken lightly. That’s the extent of the outcome at this stage.

Thanks George. It seems to me that Which? should pursue this more vigorously. The vast majority of consumers will not see a Which? story – maybe more if it becomes a press release. The only way to stop dangerous products, in my view, is to penalise the sellers if the products make fake claims, have products withdrawn from sale to protect consumers, and raise the failures with the manufacturers.

I would like Which to investigate and campaign to change laws on neighbours who burn dangerous chemicals to save on energy costs. My local council took favour on polluting neighbours because their flue was deemed to be within current building regulations distance allowed. Yet, this neighbours smoke from his flue lingers across my forecourt throughout the night and into my closed bedroom window. I have had to put gaffa tape around my landing window because the toxic odour was seeping in while we sleep. We wake up coughing every morning. We cannot use our gardens or open house windows. This is ongoing day and night for 8 months of a year, every year. I’m getting nose bleeds, stomach pains and shortness of breath. How can the current laws be fair? This has to change. Please respond Which.

Have you discussed this with other neighbours, MissA? If they are affected too then perhaps they could report this to the council.

Patrick Taylor says:
24 May 2021

I take the problem quite seriously as the quality of the air you breathe is very important. This US information gives a flavour of the problems with gas – and I assume it is a gas flue rather than from a wood or oil burner.


I would hope you have seen your GP at least to register the symptoms and make sure it is not something else. My next port of call would be to see if there is a reasonably local research unit/university who would be interested in analysing the smoke. This they may do if there is a GP also backing the case.

One thing about blocking your windows is that you do need to air the rooms thoroughly to get rid of the stale air and moisture generated each night. Otherwise, and it is worth checking you may find that you actually have moulds growing on walls or in cupboards which in themselves can be dangerous to human health.

william mckenzie says:
24 May 2021

Its great to see your company is doing something about this

Louise Ireland says:
1 June 2021

I recently reported a dangerous item to Amazon, the item was a dog lead with a malfunctioning catch. Which left my dog running free along along a busy road, it was a miracle that this did not cause a serious or fatal accident. I looked since at the 1* reviews of this product and noted that many other buyers had experienced the same issue. So I questioned this with Amazon as to why this was not picked up by Amazon. It surprised me that they don’t have a process in place to note a review that identifies a dangerous item and flag for investigation. Surely Amazon have a duty of care to not continue to sell items that customers have reviewed as dangerous? Will it take the death of someone before this is addressed? It was not straightforward to get in contact with Amazon to report this. When I did, I had to request to Amazon that this item was removed and that all previous purchasers were contacted to be made aware. Amazon were simply going to issue a refund and not address the danger of this product at all.

Louise – Was the dog lead sold by Amazon itself or through Amazon by one of the traders on its ‘marketplace’ platform.

Amazon [and other marketplace-type operations] wriggle out of any responsibility by saying they are just providing a platform for independent traders to sell their wares. They can therefore evade any responsibility for electrical safety or product safety generally. To me that is irresponsible behaviour and should be sanctioned but it has been going on for along time. These marketplaces are flooded out with badly made and poor quality products and the only remedy seems to be to replace or refund, not solve the underlying problem or defect.

Which? has been concerned about this problem for some time but it has still been impossible to get any regulations made to counter it.

I don’t know how we tackle this problem, Louise. Which? has discovered dangerous products on sale on the websites of Amazon and other online marketplaces. I have seen examples of reviews that are explicit about dangers. I have tried to report a visibly dangerous product to Trading Standards but no joy because I had not purchased it.

John asks whether the dog lead was sold by a marketplace trader or Amazon itself. This is important because Amazon does have legal responsibility for the safety of goods it sells.

One of the dangers of buying a product online is that it is unexamined – until it is delivered. Worth reading the reviews first, but then many of these are fake. A good case for going to real shops.

We should introduce legislation to make the hosts of online market places just as responsible for the goods whose sales they promote and facilitate – advertising, stocking, delivering, taking payment, and profiting directly from their sale. It is an international problem, not just confined to the UK and maybe the problem is the deep pockets of Amazon and the like will tie the legal process up so effectively that it will be years before it might be resolved. Nevertheless, as Which? exist to minimise consumer detriment, they could pursue this with a campaign. They could also investigate the legal issue, what other countries are doing, and keep us informed.

Perhaps a start would be for Which? to warn, repeatedly, of the dangers of buying through these platforms. Some (maybe more than we think) consumers might take note.

Although many reviews are faked, perhaps the ones that have identified serious safety problems are not.

It would be good if Which? gave more publicity to the risks of buying from online marketplaces but what is needed is for our government to address the problem, which they inherited from previous governments.

I would like to know exactly what we expect the government to do. Is it simply a matter of passing legislation that makes anyone who promotes a product in the UK liable for its safety and open to prosecution and penalty if it is unsafe? In principle that would be great, but simple promotion may be insufficient, as that would include every advert in a newspaper for example; would we expect the media to check out the integrity of every product advertised?

There needs to me more involvement, and that seems to be a question of drawing a line beyond which the host takes on liability, but one they cannot wriggle out of. Our normal retailers and Amazon themselves are liable for products they sell. As I understand it Amazon, and maybe other market place traders, effectively help others to sell their products. However, they do not simply advertise those traders and their products, they facilitate the transactions by stocking the goods, delivering them and both charging for those services and charging a fee, so they “fulfil”, more than just advertise. One issue would be just what do they have to provide as a service to fall within the retailer responsibility requirement.

Which? have not published many dangerous products from these operators for a while. Is the problem reduced or have they not devoted much effort to it? What I would like Which? to do is tell us what they are doing and what legislation is possible, probably linked to what Europe is also planning.

The dog lead issue reminds me of the advice “if all else fails, read the instructions”. In this cases, reading the reviews before buying, rather than after, would have been good advice. I do not mean to be unkind.

A five minute excursion to Amazon UK produced this example:

The partially-sleeved Earth pin is likely to negate protection in the event of a fault, resulting in the risk of electric shock. Here is a link to the item in question: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cloverleaf-Connection-Adapter-Toshiba-Connector/dp/B0832GMZB1/ref=sr_1_37?dchild=1&keywords=computer+lead&qid=1622550134&sr=8-37

Previously I have posted a photo of a lead that had a plug with no fuse. In the event of a fault in the connected equipment there could be a fire.

My impression is that Amazon UK is taking action to remove items that can be seen to be non-compliant by looking at the photos.

I do not know what our government can do about foreign owned online marketplaces advertising potentially dangerous products. What could be done is for the Office of Product Safety and Standards or Trading Standards to provide a way in which anyone can report a product that they suspect to be unsafe.

I am not aware that there is a problem with products sold by Amazon itself and among its marketplace traders are some well known companies.

Wavechange – Did you mean “Amazon UK is taking NO action”?

I have no idea how Amazon works as a distributor. It could be that the organisation does not have anyone with all the technical knowledge [including knowing the legal requirements and Standards] to ensure that unsafe items are not offered through their site. I expect hundreds of adverts flood in every day and inspecting them all would be a mammoth operation. The question is, therefore, should they continue providing a selling platform for things they might know nothing about?

They could, of course, require a sample of each product to be submitted to UK test house for compliance certification and safety assessment at the trader’s expense. That could help restore the economic balance between on-line and high street retailing while at the same time removing thousands of dubious products from certain categories that make selecting a good product difficult.

No, I meant what I said, John. A couple of years ago I spent a couple of hours and collected links to products that could be seen to be non-compliant by looking at the photos. I had intended to publish the list but all but one of the items had been removed from the website soon after I spotted them.

I periodically look at Amazon and eBay for visibly non-compliant electrical products and it has become harder to find examples on the Amazon website.

I absolutely agree with your final paragraph.

I am glad that that is the position.

Overall, I don’t regard Amazon as an irresponsible company and I think it has progressively changed for the better, but by accepting anything from anywhere I question whether it can really provide a good service to discerning consumers. If you’ve got a Which? report or other reputable product recommendation to aid your search it is fine, but if you’re looking for something that hasn’t been independently tested it’s very hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I am not keen to support a company that has such a dominant share of the market. Tesco is too big in my opinion, but at least it is a UK company. Although I have tried to be fair in saying that Amazon may be tackling the problem of marketplace traders selling dodgy goods on their platform, that does not address the problem. The last thing I bought from Amazon was 16 months ago.

”They could, of course, require a sample of each product to be submitted to UK test house for compliance certification and safety assessment at the trader’s expense. ”. This is unworkable and unnecessary. The whole principle of product safety is reliant upon producers undertaking all the necessary measures to meet product safety regulations, including technical support files, independent testing where applicable, and making this available to the distributor/seller. It is the seller’s responsibility to ensure the information is complete and authentic and to use due diligence to establish the integrity of the organisation they are dealing with. If there is doubt then the seller should not sell the product; they are responsible in law for the integrity of the product and should be heavily penalised if the fail. So the answer is essentially simple – if you cannot be sure that what you are selling is safe, don’t sell it.

”I am not keen to support a company that has such a dominant share of the market.” Apple?

Malcolm – I agree with your comment about compliance responsibility, but I don’t think it translates into some of the major Asian languages, or registers with some of the unknown merchants that pop up on the popular platforms. Trading Standards are supposed to be standing in the gateway checking for rotten products, but where are they?

I think my suggestion could be necessary if the legislated arrangements don’t work.

Malcolm – That system was set up in the days before online marketplaces appeared. We need a system that is fit for the 21st century.

Any of us could order a batch of phone chargers from a dubious source and sell them via an online marketplace, and maybe that is what the problem is. I agree with John’s suggestion about testing in the UK and have made this suggestion before, only to be told that it is unworkable. 🙁

Although it is good to have a choice of phone chargers, for example, we don’t need dozens of branded and branded models of unknown quality.

I am not aware of much problem with well known retailers such as those that sell in shops and online and until a problem arises I would be happy for them to continue as at present.

I do not believe that the traditional approach of reporting dangerous and counterfeit goods to Trading Standards is a solution because many items may have been sold before it is discovered that there is a problem.

Regarding Apple, I am far from keen on how the company is run but after 29 years as a customer I have very little to complain about.

The system works for reputable retailers buying from reputable companies. It would work for Amazon if they were made liable for the integrity of the products they sell. That is the change that needs to be made, not the established verification of products.

The reasons I say having every product independently tested in the Uk before being put on sale in the Uk are unworkable are 1. The facilities that exist for testing would be overwhelmed – there are not enough. 2. A misunderstanding of what independent “verification” involves. Testing a sample is only one part of the issue. The producer must also have quality procedures in place to ensure repeatability of product features and that requires separate assessment, auditing and monitoring of the producerw. 3. There are international arrangements to ensure that every country does not have to separately and independently test products for compliance; harmonisation meant that any one country in the EU could test at an accredited laboratory and the results would be accepted by all countries.

Trading Standards needs re-forming and properly funding to do its job as the appointed protector of UK consumers. It should certainly react to reported dangerous products but it should also proactively examine stocks and shipments before they reach the customer and cause harm. It should then exact deterrent penalties where infringements have occurred and penalties should help fund its operation.

We cannot stop individuals importing (unknowingly) dangerous or harmful goods for personal use by buying directly through the internet. What we can tackle are those who import and profit from the sale of dangerous goods. I maintain the framework of the current system, used internationally, does not need changing. What needs to change is the way we treat those who abuse it.

We can rarely tackle the producer as they are often outside our jurisdiction. We can tackle the distributors who are legally liable and are within our jurisdiction.

malcolm r says: Today 16:39
”I am not keen to support a company that has such a dominant share of the market.” Apple?

Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on operating systems, mobile ‘phones, laptops or desktop. Just on high quality merchandise.

It was dominant being referred to, which it is, not monopoly. Amazon and Tescos do not have a monopoly.

Looking at eBay I see that I could buy a phone charger for 99p plus 60p postage from China. It looks OK and I expect that many will grab a bargain.

I would like to see products sold via online marketplaces tested in the UK before being offered for sale.

Ian, I don’t think it is fair to say that Apple has a monopoly on high quality merchandise. I’m very happy with my (second owner) ThinkPads and my Honor 8s phone. The latter has suited me better than either the iPhone 8 that I gave away to another famility member or the (old pattern) iPhone SE thsat I use for instructional purposes. I do like the new iPhone SE too – but at three times the price of an Honor 8s, I’m unlikely to treat myself to one anytime soon.

My old 2008 Apple Macbook died with a fatal motherboard failure a few months ago. Not a bad working life for a PC, but by no means the longest I’ve ever seen. I have three Dell PC’s of similar age that are still fully functional and still useful.

All that having been said, Apple does deserve credit for not joining the “race to the bottom” for cheaply making very cheap PC and phone hardware that is not built to last.

@wavechange, They should know at that price it is not likely to be much good. As I said above, it is risky.

I hoped I’d explained more clearly that testing a product in the UK is quite insufficient. https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/end-dangerous-products-campaign-update-whirlpool/#comment-1628474 If the producer/supplier wants to deceive they will simply supply a product that will pass tests. The key is consistently producing a compliant product and that means having recognised quality processes in place. These also need to be “tested” – independently assessed and continually audited. Just testing one product in the UK, or in any independent accredited laboratory, tells you nothing about the ability, or intent, of the supplier to continue to provide a safe product.

I’m not sure what this has to do with product safety, although the cost of Apple chargers has encouraged the production of counterfeit chargers that might work fine but have the potential to electrocute the user, burn their house down, wreck their computer or phone, or just fail prematurely.

Apple did not provide me with a charger for my new iPhone so I’m continuing to use the one that came with previous (2014) phone.

We could, of course, buy what we need only from reputable retailers who sell from reputable manufacturers. If we don’t want to buy a Samsung phone charger made by them and choose a cheaper clone or equivalent, because it is cheaper then we take a risk. We need protecting from that risk by having the safety assured by the seller.

The Samsung charger from my 2nd Samsung Android phone has long outlasted the phone it came with and is still in regular use. I’ve seen many, many charging cables fail from unsympathetic handling. Thankfully pound shop cables can serve as effective replacements – even for iPhones. I particularly like 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 cables that can be used to charge both Android and iPhones.

The last two chargers I bought cost £20 each from Apple. But I did have a £40 Apple vouncher to spend and not much else that I could buy with it. Although many phones (including iPhones) do not come with chargers now, I think it would be unwise to use an expensive new phone with any old charger.

Like Derek I have seen many examples of charging cables that have been damaged by careless handling, such as disconnecting them by pulling the cable.

USB-C chargers, which are used for an increasing number of phones, produce more power than earlier phone chargers. A poor quality cable or one that has been damaged could cause a fire.

Em says:
2 June 2021

There’s a guy called bigclivedotcom on YouTube that does teardowns of electrical components – mostly fakes, dangerous and “snake-oil” products.

He has a video where he disassembles a 13A twin socket outlet USB charger, which did not produce the claimed 5V output. Apart from not being fit for purpose, he noted there were two earth terminals (as is quite common), the screws were earthed via metal strips, but the metal bridge between the terminals was hidden in the plastic casing.

On disassembly, he noticed that the two earth terminals were not connected. So if you loop in to just one of the earth terminals, as is common practice, one of the two socket outlets is not connected to earth, at least not if you happen to have a plastic back box. Even with a metal box (connecting earth via the screw terminals), the earth impedance would be too high to offer proper protection in the event of a fault.

There is a 50% chance that a test wouldn’t find the earth fault (even more so with a metal back box), as few electricans would bother to test both socket outlets. Moral – don’t buy or let anybody use cheap electrical fixings in your home.

If you want to check your own ring mains for basic faults, I suggest you get a Kewtech 103 Socket Tester for about £15 and go round your house every couple of years. Maybe more often, if you have vermin or old wiring. No skill required – just plug in (test BOTH sockets) and check for the 3 LEDs or continuous tone.

Apart from Kewtech, Martindale, Megger and Di-Log are other reputable brands. Use Screwfix, Toolstation, TLC if you want to buy from a store. Also available on Amazon (£14.59 today), but stay clear of the Scamazon 3rd party merchants of death.

I have been using a Martindale EZ150 socket tester for years and chose it because it gives an indication of earth loop impedance without tripping the RCD. I did buy a second with the intention of lending it to friends but most did not use it, believing that since the sockets provide power there can’t be a problem. 🙁

I’m surprised and encouraged that Big Clive has not found too much wrong with products from pound shops. I did wonder if I was being over zealous testing both sockets because I have never found a problem with only one, but having seen this video or one on John Ward’s YouTube channel I am happy to continue.

I hasten to add that there is no connexion between me and that You Tube channel but they are nevertheless well worth watching if only to see why taking electrical safety seriously I so important.

Sorry John. I try to remember to refer to him as the other John Ward (or JW as he introduces himself).

Here is a JW video showing an example of dangerous connecting lead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KMrWupFQt4 The appearance of the unfused plug makes these dodgy leads easy to spot.

With regard to the proposal that product safety from online marketplaces is best dealt with “”They could, of course, require a sample of each product to be submitted to UK test house for compliance certification and safety assessment at the trader’s expense. “ I suggest that would work by default because it would be impossible to check most products – insufficient test resources so assuming they could not be sold until validated they would not enter the market.
”Amazon sells more than 12 million products.
If you expand this to Amazon Marketplace sellers, as well, the number is closer to more than 350 million products.

And there are other sellers than Amazon.

This still ignores the other requirement that the producer needs to have a recognised, monitored and audited quality system in place to ensure they can manufacture a tested product consistently to ensure continuing product safety (assuming it passes the type test).

Jo says:
5 June 2021

Companies Should not be allowed to sell things knowing they are unsafe. Holmans

Much has been said about dangerous electrical products sold via online marketplaces, but here is a recent Which? article about dangerous tooth whitening products: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/05/dont-buy-teeth-whitening-products-from-online-marketplaces/

Which? managed to have the offending products removed from sale and received assurances that the marketplaces will take action against traders that fail to comply with applicable legislation. I fear that even if those traders are removed, others will take their place.

As a Which? member I am grateful for efforts to remove dangerous products from sale but I would like to see effective action that prevents non-compliant products being sold on online marketplaces.

And not just dangerous levels of hydrogen peroxide..https://www.nature.com/articles/s41415-019-0188-8

Em says:
7 June 2021

The problem with “dangerous” tooth whitening products being sold here, is that an EU Directive restricts sales of all home tooth whitening kits. Since, by definition, the sale of any product containing more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide is illegal in the UK, the question about whether or not the product is actually dangerous in the hands of the typical consumer doesn’t even get considered. There aren’t two categories of tooth whitening product here:

– Unsafe and therefore illegal to sell,

– Probably safe when used at home, but still illegal to sell due to restrictive legislation.

The most likely risk from a correctly-formulated tooth whitener containing peroxide is gum irritation.

For once, North American jurisdictions take a more sensible approach. Go into any drugstore and you will find reputable brands like Crest Whitestrips (featured in the Which? article, I note) alongside the toothpaste and brushes. No need to search for illegal traders and risk injury because you cannot afford £300 to have your teeth whitened by a dentist.

I have no problem with the legislation being revised if supported by current scientific understanding. What concerns me is when we do have legislation and some traders are either unaware of it or pay no attention. I sincerely hope that we can make products sold via online marketplaces comply with the same standards that we expect from most well known retailers.

I have witnessed painful hydrogen peroxide burns because some students ignore warnings to wear protective gear.

Product safety regulations are devised to protect us and need to be observed by retailers. We have seen a number of dangerous or potentially harmful substances sold through the, no doubt lucrative, Amazon market place (and others). By the time they are removed from sale some, many, will have been sold and be causing harm. We need these fulfilment traders penalised when they support the sale of harmful and dangerous products. A campaign should be started.

Linda Lissaman - Hill says:
1 September 2021

ATLAST – Long May WHICH Reign great. Falsehood is a complete waste of – our Time & Monies. Stop it ALL.

”The government needs to ensure that its review of the product safety regime addresses some of the fundamental gaps highlighted in this report. It must also take urgent action to make online platforms legally responsible for the safety of products offered through their sites.

“It is essential that the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is strengthened so that it can take a more proactive and consumer-focused approach and better protect people from unsafe products.”

The full parliamentary report is here

I can see no mention of any proposal to legislate to make online market place hosts responsible for the products they sell. Nor any mention of establishing a product recall system

One impression gained is that, after three years in being, the OPSS is not effectively working with other relevant bodies, nor getting to grips with the collation of product safety information. The report does recognise the value of local trading standards, points out the 39% reduction in funding, but seems to avoid recommending unifying the local system so the many national issues (as Whirlpool was, for example) can be properly accumulated and coordinated, nor recommending proper funding.

I think an unfortunate statement in the introduction is the suggestion that a product fault caused the Grenfell disaster. An old appliance, it seems, did start a fire (as far as I know a generic fault has not been suggested) but the disaster was caused by defective cladding and a defective building, that could have been instigated by any cause such as smoking, candle, cooker fire.

The impression I get is the OPSS is not an assertive body that is getting to grips with the key issues yet. Maybe its £14 million budget is insufficient.