/ Home & Energy

Take fire-risk appliances off the shelves immediately

We want people to be better protected from flammable plastic-backed fridge-freezers. Do you back our call for retailers to take fire-risk appliances off the shelves?

Update 11/07/2019

We’re celebrating a big win for our End Dangerous Products campaign.

Today, a new fridge freezer safety standard enters into force effectively banning the manufacture of flammable plastic-backed models.

We’ve been campaigning for the introduction of a new standard since 2017, along with groups including London Fire Brigade and Electrical Safety First, and our 115,000 campaign supporters.

The standard sees the introduction of new tests that require cold appliance backing material to withstand a naked flame for 30 seconds, and demonstrate that it can sufficiently prevent flames reaching the flammable insulation as a result.

Although fires due to refrigeration faults are rare, under the old standard, some appliances were made with a flammable plastic backing that can accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire.

While the new standard effectively bans manufacturers from making flammable plastic-backed models, retailers are expected to be allowed to continue selling their old stock so we’ll be calling for them to remove any remaining flammable plastic-backed fridge freezers from sale immediately.

If you’re thinking of buying a new fridge, freezer or fridge-freezer, remember to check before you buy to make sure you’re not getting a model with flammable plastic backing.

You can use our free tool to check the backing material of hundreds of the most popular fridges, freezers and fridge freezers currently on the market and reviewed by Which?.

The London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Charlie Pugsley, told us:

We have long been warning about the stark dangers of plastic backed fridges and freezers as part of our Total Recalls campaign and we support Which? in raising concerns about this issue and producing the online checking tool.

The new standard sends a clear message that these flammable backed fridges and freezers are a risk and is a big step in the right direction, but it’s really important that this isn’t the end of it and that more work is done to make white goods safer.

We’d also like to see recall notices better publicised and greater regulation of second-hand appliances”

Update 18/03/2019

We’ve repeatedly asked manufacturers and retailers to stop making plastic-backed fridge-freezers that can accelerate fires and put people’s lives at risk.

A new safety standard will be coming into force this July, requiring all manufacturers to stop making these potentially unsafe refrigeration models.

Retailers must now put the safety of their customers first. Hundreds of these potentially unsafe fridge-freezers continue to be sold across the UK. They must be removed from shelves immediately, so that people are not left at risk for years to come.

People must have confidence that the appliances they buy are safe. Until then, anyone planning on buying a fridge-freezer should still check they are not unwittingly purchasing an unsafe model.

Original convo 11/02/2019

First of all, it’s important to say that the sale of flammable plastic-backed models that pass the current safety standard is legal and that the backing itself is not the cause of fire.

However, our call comes in response to a growing body of evidence, including from the London Fire Brigade, Electrical Safety First and our own testing indicating that plastic-backing can rapidly accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire in your home.

Check your appliance with our tool

It is worth stressing that if you already own a flammable plastic-backed model, the risk of fridge-freezer fires is extremely low.

However, if you’re thinking of buying a new appliance, we’d urge you to make sure you’re getting a metal-backed (or other flame retardant) model. If you’re unsure about how to check, the free-to-use Which? fridge-freezer checker tool can help.

In September 2017, we urged manufacturers to stop using flammable plastic-backing in their fridge-freezers, while in April of last year, we took the unprecedented step of making 250 fridge-freezers Don’t Buys.

In response to this, a number of brands committed to stopping the production of these appliances by January 2019.

Last month, when we followed up with manufacturers, we were encouraged to find that almost all have now stopped producing flammable plastic-backed models while most confirmed to us that they no longer distribute these appliances to retailers either, marking a win for our campaign.

Your turn, retailers

Off the back of this, we looked into whether the UK’s four biggest fridge-freezer retailers (AO.com, John Lewis & Partners, Argos and Currys PC World) are still selling plastic-backed models.

Of the four, only John Lewis told us that they do not currently sell any plastic-backed models, and haven’t done so since April 2018. We’re now calling on AO.com, Argos and Currys to follow suit and remove all flammable plastic-backed models from sale immediately.

A fridge-freezer lottery

When carrying out our research, we found there was huge confusion about whether models were metal or plastic-backed, with a significant proportion mislabelled, making it difficult for people to have confidence they are not purchasing a fire-risk fridge-freezer.

I’d be interested to know if you’ve found similar when buying a new appliance?

That’s why we’re also calling on manufacturers and retailers to provide people with greater clarity by clearly listing model backing type so customers know what they’re buying.

This uncertainty demonstrates the need for reform of the standards system – people should be able to expect more transparency and consistency across the industry.

If you’ve recently bought, or are thinking of buying, a new fridge-freezer, I’d be really keen to hear about your experience. Were you able to find out the backing type of your model? Did you have difficulty locating this information? Let us know in the comments.

Comments
Davidv rickard says:
19 March 2019

Fridge washer problems are sometimes caused by the suppressor capacitor shorting if connected to 240 volt supply and triggered by a power surge. These machines are some times under the work top and cannot be switched off. (They are before the on/ off switch, and so are always connected.

DerekP says:
14 April 2019

I’d say it was the responsibility of the householder to ensure that all such appliances are only connected via switched sockets.

For example, in my kitchen, there are switches above the worktop for all my appliances.

That is good electrical installation practice, Derek, but unfortunately it is not a general requirement other than in new houses, although I believe it might be a requirement for refrigerators and fridge/freezers that run continuously to have a switched socket or an isolating switch accessible at all times.

I assume that current practice is to have switched fused spurs running off a ring main, connected to sockets sited under the worktops. Useful, but you have to watch out for guests who helpfully switch off the freezer or fridge last thing at night. 🙁

The problem with older houses is that sockets can be behind appliances, so that in event of fire it is necessary to turn the power off at the consumer unit.

DerekP says:
15 April 2019

wave change, my point was that home owners and landlords should upgrade important wiring to keep up with modern safe practices.

I’m quite pleased with our system, where it’s the same as Derek’s and I’ve added double pole, double throw switches for the oven, tumble drier and washing machines.

Derek – I looked for appliance isolation switches as one indicator of modern wiring when I bought my present house. I doubt that many householders would add them unless having their kitchen replaced because cables have to be laid in walls and power can be switched off at the consumer unit in the event of fire. I once had to deal with a cooker fire for a neighbour who was in a state of panic. I turned off the power at the CU and would not have been able to access the appliance switch because it was close to the cooker – and the fire.

Although I have my reservations in this case, I do agree that householders and landlords should keep their wiring up to date and have it checked periodically. I have read that many homes still have fuseboxes and don’t have a single RCD.

Ian – Plug-in appliances usually have a fused single-pole isolation switch, whereas wired-in appliances such as ovens and hobs will have a double-pole switch. In the home, double-throw switches are usually found in lighting controlled by two or more switches and not in power circuits.

Appliance isolation switches should be incorporated into the design stage of a new kitchen which ours wasn’t. Everyone probably knows they should have a cooker isolation switch, but it was only when an electrician became involved we discovered what was required by which time half the units were installed. So the switches are legal but not in ideal easily accessible places and in an emergency we might have to go to the main CU.

Now I know what is required, I would want the isolation switches to be on a mini CU near or even just outside the kitchen exit. As wavechange found out, you might not be able to get near a switch if an appliance is on fire.

When I wired our house 40 years ago I put isolation switches above the worktops connected to socket outlets below, adjacent to where the major appliances would be located. So in the event of a problem I could quickly isolate the offender without going to close. It is also convenient if I choose to isolate an appliance while it is not being used. This seemed a common sense approach and convenient.

It is important to know what the switches in your consumer unit control and they should be clearly labelled, so that you can switch off the kitchen circuits without losing all your supply – to lights for example.

One of the first jobs I did when I moved in was to improve the labelling of the circuit breakers on the consumer unit. The garage has its own CU but there was no indication that this was fed from the one in the house and it took some time to work out that the unlabelled circuit breaker was for the smoke alarms.

What Alfa suggests makes sense, particularly if the CU is not well sited or nearby. In event of fire it’s risky to go into a smoke filled room to turn off the power.

I also label the switches that are not for obvious functions in order to avoid confusion. In the kitchen there are isolation switches for the hob, oven, extractor hood, dishwasher and boiler [which is actually upstairs, and it took me some time after we moved in to work out what the switch was for]. The utility room also has switches for the washing machine, fridge/freezer, extractor fan, the patio lights and the garden power sockets, and they are not all in the most obvious places. Getting to the consumer unit means going into the garage where there are various impediments to rapid action.

I’ve never understood why the siting of consumer units is so variable, having seen them hidden under stairs and near the ceiling in some older properties. Mine is in the downstairs toilet. I’ve not seen a main consumer unit in a garage, but maybe that’s because I have not looked. It would be handy for anyone who wants to add a charging point for an electric vehicle, but otherwise a thick cable is needed to take the power from the garage to the house.

I wish the current regulations were freely available so that we could check how well our homes measure up. I have two power shower pumps that have been linked to the immersion heater circuit via fused isolators. The circuit is capable of handling the power and I’ve not used the immersion heater other than to test it, but my understanding is that an immersion heater should be on its own circuit.

There are a number of explanatory books on BS 7671; the “official document” is aimed at professionals and parts can be difficult to interpret without considerable knowledge.

Electrical Safety First publish useful Qs&As. inevitable the none you want to ask is not there 🙁 . https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/professional-resources/wiring-regulations/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI243CiMbS4QIVyLTtCh0hkw71EAAYAiAAEgJdrvD_BwE

I’m familiar with this, but others may not be. I’m in favour of having information available in a form that is easier to understand, but this needs to be comprehensive, structured, indexed and public access to the full regulations is needed, even though not everyone will be in a position to use them.

Some things are complicated and some of the changes introduced in the 18th edition wiring regulations will continue to be debated but others are very straightforward and easy to understand. Imagine how we would cope with pursuing our consumer rights if we had to rely on buying a copy of the Consumer Rights Act etc. or a book on the subject.

The wiring regulations are a joint production of the IET and BSI, bodies that are private and must recover the costs of all the work that goes into what is now BS 7671. If the taxpayer paid for all this work, as it does for laws, then maybe it could be free. However the vast majority of people will not ever want to look at the wiring regs, let alone make use of them, and much of the work they cover should be left to competent professionals. Any amateur will only be concerned with domestic installations and books are readily available showing the 18th edition’s requirements, typically £15. They are very limited in what they are legally allowed to undertake.

Useful information about what work can be carried out by an amateur is covered in useful detail in ‘Part P’ of the Building Regulations: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/441872/BR_PDF_AD_P_2013.pdf

As I have explained many times in other Convos, a different funding model could make British Standards etc. freely available to everyone, and the same applies with the wiring regulations.

Many amateurs will not tackle electrical work even where this is permitted, but understanding the regulations can help make home owners/tenants understand whether their home complies with current standards.

As Which? provides much valuable information perhaps that should also be made freely available? However I doubt most of the current funders – the Members – would continue to provide their annual subscriptions to pay for its work. So like Standards the money would have to come from somewhere else. Probably the hard pressed taxpayer. I wonder it they’d be happy to pay for a very very small minority of people with an interest in Standards to have free access. We could do it as it used to be done through municipal reference libraries; a good use of council tax money?

Which? have never responded to the question as to whether they would make online standards available to seriously interested members who wanted to help Which? in its work.

I would like to promote greater awareness of modern standards for domestic wiring and for householders to have a better understanding of the requirements so that they can spot possible problems, for example when a replacement kitchen is being installed. I have given a couple of examples of wiring that might not be best practice or even permitted and had the work been done for me rather than the previous owner of the house I would have wanted to check that the work complied with the wiring regs before paying the bill.

I do not disagree with anyone having a greater understanding of something – whether building work, plumbing, electrics. I consider explanatory books and online resources (Electrical Safety First for example) are of far more value to the layperson than, say, BS 7671 which requires a good understanding if it to be used properly. Books are inexpensive.

If you don’t want to spend money on learning something then the question that remains unanswered is how else it should be funded.

The wiring regulations could be made available online, like the Part P building regulations are. They can continue to be funded by those who need to use them in connection with their work. As I said before, much of what is in the wiring regulations is not difficult to understand.

This seems to have gone well off-topic.

Which? have been asked to explain the changes that have been made to or proposed in the revised safety standard for fridges etc – BS EN 60335-2-24 They have also been asked what they can divulge about the activities of the international working groups (that include BSI [UK] representatives) that are looking at fire in domestic appliances.

Any news?

Jill says:
13 April 2019

Domestic Electrical goods can be built, Inspected and Tested to the lowest of 3 quality standards, I believe this may encourage the build to fail manufacture that we all sadly recognise. I would never build or inspect goods of that lower quality, and I would feel ashamed to allow some of the small appliances, that I’ve opened up for repair, past inspection. It’s little wonder that they may fail or burn out. I cannot understand why domestic customers are treated so shabbily and expected to put up with inferior goods. Perhaps BSI regulations should be revised as our final domestic standard. We should all feel safe in our homes. And for that reason Smart meters of whatever generation will not be welcome in my home.

DerekP says:
14 April 2019

My experience of serving on BSI standards committees suggests that we can either choose to align British Standards with other international standards or produce our own UK specific versions.

The product must meet the requirements of the relevant international or national safety standard. “Quality” is different – how long the product lasts, whether it functions correctly for example, whether bits continue working. BSI generally adopt the European standards, which are usually based on international standards; these are published as BS ENs and these “harmonised standards” allow trade throughout the EU.

Amanda says:
9 July 2019

My dryer was affected, they did a modification, I pay 7 pound a month for cover and the last repair they did , the casing had split and I could smell burning , the wiring was melting , after the modification it’s been nothing but trouble repair after repair ,terrible really

mr Keith Wheeler says:
9 July 2019

I’ve believe that all items should have quality control checks before the items leave the factory as I had to when I use to make oil filters and inspection on all type where tested and filled in a chart recorded at 100% at all times.. Under health & safety all electrical appliance before they leave should be tested
your find in the regulation in this country and EU spec????? to be done.

Reputable companies will have an extensive audited quality systems complying with ISO 9001 that not only looks at quality control of the product in manufacture but all the processes that go behind it, including sales, design, laboratory, drawings and documentation, complaints etc etc.

Safety standards specify tests that must be applied in the factory to every product before it is released.

Trisha Powell says:
9 July 2019

How many people lost their lives in the Grenfell Fire started by a Hotpoint Fridge? This fact seems conveniently overlooked by the media reports on fires started by Whirlpool/Hotpoint etc. The Government needs to take action NOW and we need to boycott all products produced by this company as I have done for the last four years since I became aware of this issue. I also boycott the shops that sell them. thank goodness for Which and the ‘This Morning’ TV Investigative journalist for doggedly pursuing this issue. Well Done and thank-you.

[This comment was edited to remove defamatory content. Please see community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/ ]

Ian says:
18 July 2019

I filled your online form in as our tumble drier was one of the Whirlpool (Creda) at risk driers last week and within a week they delivered a like for like replacement tumble drier free of charge.
Thank you ‘Which’

Russ Taylor says:
4 September 2019

There’s an electrical engineer on YouTube called ‘Big Clive’ who takes apart all manner of small electrical appliances and proves many of them to be quite lethal.

Thinking about the post by Russ, how do we know if this mains adaptor is a safe or a dangerous design?

This example was supplied with an illuminated bedside clock, a present from a child and of unknown origin. It works, just like most dangerous small electrical goods do. It may continue to work but if something goes wrong, will it fail in a safe way or might it go on fire or cause an electric shock. That depends on whether it includes appropriate safety features. One of these is a fuse that will cut off the power if in event of a short-circuit or other failure. If that has been omitted, then the only protection is the 32 amp circuit breaker or 30 amp fuse in the consumer unit, meaning that a failure can result in fire. Exactly the same applies to phone chargers and all small electrical goods that do not use a conventional three pin UK plug, which contains a mains fuse that will afford more protection.

In my opinion, power supplies and chargers without a conventional fuse should never have been permitted in the UK. When I leave tree lights on at Christmas I plug the mains adapter into a short extension lead with a 1 amp BS1362 fuse in the plug, simply because I don’t know whether the adapter contains an internal fuse.

I wonder how many mains adapters and chargers do not contain internal protection and are in daily use?

David Davis says:
4 September 2019

I am sorry to say we have lost control of many of the safety legislation that is a Duty of Care in the Health and Safety Act 1974 that ensures nothing enters the public domain that can cause harm I was so concerned I published a book in 2013 entitled THE REAL PRODUCT SAFETY GUIDE further information on this guide can be found by entering the title into the internet search engine

From what I see we have the standards and regulations in place to cover the safety of products, but not the policing necessary to ensure these standards are enforced and that products comply.

Much of what we find failing safety is fake or inadequately designed and controlled products from far away lands over which we have no jurisdiction. These products are generally imported by distributors, or sold through “market places”. When imported, the importer/distributor has responsibility for the integrity of the product; when the product is clearly defective and the importer has not exercised due care, they should be prosecuted and heavily penalised as a deterrent to them and others. Where they are promoted under a “market place” banner such as Amazon, the market place sponsor should be required to take responsibility for the vetting of products and, again, be penalised when they fail to protect the consumer.

To achieve this more successfully we need to fund Trading Standards properly – it is their statutory role to police the consumer product safety system.

DerekP says:
4 September 2019

I’m certainly surprised and disappointed that we do not make greater use of the HASW 1974 act for the protection of the public from unsafe working practices, including the manicure or supply of unsafe equipment.

I think the matter is covered by these regulations ( in the case of electrical equipment). As far as I know these are the EU regulations transposed into UK law as a result of our (assumed) departure from the EU.
It is explicit about penalties and I’d question whether “market places” do not come into the category of “distributor” and should also be held responsible (““distributor” means any person in the supply chain, other than the manufacturer or the importer,who makes electrical equipment available on the market;“).

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/1101/made/data.pdf
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/640829/nlf-electrical-equipment-regulations-2016-guidance.pdf

Great point. With the huge profits and impotent taxation of the likes of Amazon they could invest some of their huge profits in carrying out their own quality control on batches of products to ensure their customers safety from rogue suppliers and manufacturers. They charge over the odds in any case so having a robust quality control facility would make customers feel safer paying their higher pricing.

Richard Pennings says:
4 September 2019

I’ve had a tumble dryer that came in the faulty category I telephoned the Hotpoint line as quoted in the MSM I purchased a brand new Tumble Drier better than the one we had ‘twas 7 years old the chap who delivered it set it up as well the grand sum total was £60 whole pounds 10/10 to Hotpoint

Trevor says:
4 September 2019

We had one of the dangerous indesit Tumble Dryers that was on the product recall list, we had the opportunity to have the dangerous part replaced or we could choose a new Hotpoint model for £100, so we did just that, always better to be safe than sorry

Bill Rose says:
4 September 2019

Part of the problem with items like chargers, transformers and chipped Li-ion batteries, is the rip-off cost of originals. This encourages many people to shop around for deals and either accept a cheap fake (without realising it), or simply buy something that appears okay and costs next to nothing.

Bill, I agree with that. The problem is that “many people” buy these cheap products through market places or directly from unknown overseas suppliers outside the EU where regulations are disregarded. We should be able to buy products that are put properly on the market in the EU with confidence; if not, then prosecution should follow. Maybe we should be educating people on where they should be able to buy safely?

I’d like to see the role of market places, like Amazon, properly investigated and controlled.

As Bill says, the cost of original products is high. Whether this is mainly because companies are making generous profits or whether these prices reflect the real cost of making products that reliably meet or exceed the current standards is not clear. Either way, there is not much that can be done to reduce these prices.

Recent research for Which? highlights the dangers of using online ‘marketplaces’: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/09/killer-chargers-travel-adaptors-and-power-banks-rife-on-online-marketplaces/ Maybe Amazon and the others should sell products under their own name and take responsibility for product safety. I suggest that the sale of unbranded electrical goods is banned, irrespective of source.

The Electrical Equipment Regulations I referenced above spell out the information that must accompany a product for it to be legally put on the UK market. Anything not in compliance is “illegal” and thus “banned”. But, that only works if we have an effective organisation that keeps such products off the market.

Trying to deal with those manufacturers, importers and sellers of potentially dangerous products via Trading Standards is not going to be a cost effective solution, and the problems are increasing.

I suggest that mains-powered electrical products and other categories that frequently feature in safety recalls (e.g. children’s toys) are sold only by licensed traders that have demonstrated the ability to ensure that potentially dangerous products are not offered for sale. That will still provide the opportunity of choice and competition.

There are numerous analogies. We don’t let anyone service gas boilers, do major electrical work in homes or practise as GPs. That does not always work but it’s much better than our current system for ensuring that products on sale are safe.

I don’t see any evidence that using “Trading Standards” will, or will not, be “cost effective”. Perhaps you would provide the basis for your point? I do not see that we should in any way evaluate protecting consumer safety as a “cost effective” issue, but a basic expectation. We need an organisation that is properly resourced to look after consumer safety and, in law, that is Trading Standards. But it has not been properly funded for years and that needs to change, or another competent and properly-resourced organisation put in its place.

We cannot stop or penalise individuals who buy direct from overseas for their own use. However the vast majority of products put on sale in the UK come through importers, distributors and via “market places”. The law deals with the responsibilities of the former two, with fines and imprisonment as the sanctions. If we used those sanctions properly we could make a real impact. What we do need to address is the “market places” like Amazon and penalise them when they promote or take part on the sale of unsafe products.

Joseph Marshall says:
4 September 2019

Perhaps the stinking rich executives of any company that sells this lethal junk – or knowingly provides a platform for the selling of it – should be plugged directly into a faulty tumble dryer or washing machine. It would, if nothing else, give a jolt to the hackneyed phrase ‘laundering money.’ It might also give a jolt to the stinking rich executives, but I doubt many people would be bothered by that.

Nicholas Carton says:
4 September 2019

All companies that sell product’s must be made to ensure the products meet minum safety standards. If they sell unsafe products they must be prosecuted.

Nicholas, that is the law. The problem is we do not properly police it and appear to be hesitant in prosecuting and imposing deterrent penalties.

Maybe leaving the animal farm of EU will give GB the license laws back control so the products are tested to Uk standards before they are sold to us , ooow can I say that EU open border caused this ?
Becko & other sister brands are made in Turkey !
Enough said

John, the safety standards we use are EuroNorms, (ENs) based upon international standards and issued in the UK by BSI as BS ENs. We have done this for very many years. This “harmonisation” of standards allows international trade. It is not, in general, the quality of the standards that is the problem but the way we police the products that are meant to comply. Trading Standards should do this but we do not fund them adequately.

Malcolm, I work in an industry with stringent standards, in particular H&S. You can’t have travelled around Europe & not seen complete disregard for this either, if you never taught a puppy not to pee on the carpet ?

John, to clear any confusion I’m talking of product safety standards, not workplace H&S.”Disregard”, if that is the case, is presumably down to the lack of “policing”. As far as products are concerned each country in the EU has to appoint a Market Surveillance Authority whose job is to see that products meet safety standards and other EU regulations. In the UK this is Trading Standards. If they fail to do that job properly we cannot blame the standards and regulations. I worked in an industry that had stringent product safety standards that we observed, and were required to do by law.

malcolm r is correct. I also work in the product quality standards sector. Whenever Trading Standards are asked to help in identifying and quarantining a non-compliant product, the reaction is usually “cutbacks, we don’t have the staff to do much beyond basic food safety in cafes”.
British Standards Institute have elected to remain members of CEN (the EU’s centre for product standards) so Brexit won’t affect what is being done. Uprated product safety standards will eventually be adopted by the UK, sometimes with a local Annexe. As drafters of Standards, we try to avoid the need for an Annexe, but with a product being ‘Standardised’ from Finland to Greece, it is sometimes necessary to accept them. Whether they will be adequately policed is another, local matter.
For years now, the comment in our business community has been that any law passed in Brussels / Standard issued in the EU, Britain alone is the one to adopt it and quickly ram it down the throats of industry, with all the costs and penalties involved. The other Member states take a much more relaxed view, deciding (although they were part of the law making process) whether they will bother adopting something or other and then if they will enforce use.

John, this is complete nonsense. If anything, safety standards will plummet after we leave the EU because no one will be able to afford high-quality branded goods.

Anya – the safety standards will not plummet after Brexit but compliance with them could. That is why we must continue to demand that the enforcement authorities for trading standards and consumer protection are enhanced in order to exercise control over potentially dangerous and non-compliant products.

This includes the major local authorities that have statutory responsibilities, National Trading Standards, the OPSS, the Dept for Business Enterprise & Industrial Strategy [BEIS], the HSE, Fire & Rescue services, and other institutions and organisations that have relevant regulatory powers or responsibilities.

Anya, all relevant products put on the UK market must, by law, meet the appropriate safety standards and regulations, whatever their price. Which? shows the huge range of prices of products that are available to us that will meet these standards. That does not mean they are high quality – but that is quite different to meeting safety requirements.

All Chairs and Directors of Multi National companies have to sign off their Financial Accounts as being fair and accurate to protect investors from bad financial practices. Manufacturing lethal and unsafe products is a far higher responsibility than pandering to the gambling habits of traders etc by producing honest financial statements. All Boards should be held to personal account when they produce and sell lethal products of any sort and should sign off a safety statement with their financial statements for all their products and for the benefit of their customers that actually are the means to them earning their lucrative salaries and bonus payments. Lets have their skin in the game and stop letting them off the hook when their Companies greed over rides their customers safety.

David Davis says:
6 September 2019

Many of our companies have decided to manufacture their products outside of this country where in many cases safety is weak We will buy COTS Commercial Off The Shelf items that are placed inside the main component It mostly arrives with no or little technical information and it does not make much sense if this item places the product at risk I have had experience of this before I retired I was the Product safety engineer for a large electronics company and because we could not source a component from this country we had no option but to buy COTS from the far east when the item arrived it had no data and was a sealed metal box so to ensure we were not failing our safety we had to smash the box open to see the what it contained The Health and Safety Act 1974 has a Duty of Care No product should enter the public domain that could cause harm Those companies that do not bother about safety are seldom brought to book they just recall their products The only time the HSE get involved is when we have a major incident

Products that companies manufacture outside the EU (and the UK) that are then placed on the EU market must meet EU safety standards and regulations.

Components must also meet EU safety standards and regulations to be incorporated in a product that is to be legally placed on the EU market. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure such components are compliant and properly documented. Using non-compliant components would make the product ineligible for CE marking, it would not pass compliance testing so, as I see it, is an illegal practice if the product were then sold in the EU. We need to sanction any producer that attempts to circumvent the system designed to protect consumers from harm.

Curmudgeon says:
2 October 2019

Electrical goods may well carry the relevant markings but a lot of cheap imports do not comply. Last year I bought two convector fires from the well known auction site both of which failed in less than a week . Doubtless the markings were fraudulent , I got a refund but these should not have been in the Country . Compliance should be checked before such Chinese rubbish gets to the customer.

Each EU state, including the UK, has to have a Market Surveillance Authority that takes responsibility for checking products are marketed legally – i.e. in accordance with the EU regulations that include safety standards and appropriate product certification and marking. In the UK that is Trading Standards but as it has seen its funding drastically reduced it seems incapable of properly fulfilling that role.

I believe that, as part of its avowed aim to protect consumers, Which? should make strenuous efforts to restore Trading Standards to a state where it can do this job.

Even if Trading Standards was properly funded it would be unlikely to stop dangerous products being put on sale. Which? produced a recent report about phone chargers and power banks: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/09/killer-chargers-travel-adaptors-and-power-banks-rife-on-online-marketplaces/ This gets a mention in the October issue of the Which? magazine. Even if Trading Standards could remove every potentially dangerous product on sale, someone could have a fire in their home or receive an electric shock before action is taken.

Not everyone is aware that a product that is potentially unsafe can function perfectly well until an internal component fails.

As Curmudgeon says, there needs to be a way of checking compliance before goods are put on sale.

You might remember my Russell Hobbs kettle that burst into flames a couple of years ago.

It was bought from Amazon and the same model as our previous kettle.

When I tried to replace the filter in a local shop it did not have the standard filter and I had a slight argument with the shop owner over it who insisted I was giving him the wrong model number. An online search for the model filter also showed it was the wrong filter.

I believe the only explanation was that the kettle was not a genuine Russell Hobbs.

Having seen fake batteries on eBay that almost look genuine, I can’t see how Trading Standards could put a stop to these products being offered for sale.

I remember that you dismantled the damaged kettle and posted photos here. 🙁

Trading Standards sometimes manages to seize large consignments of dangerous and counterfeit goods but the Which? article I provided a link to provides damning evidence that the present system is unsatisfactory. Our present system for product safety is no longer adequate. If products had to be independently tested before being put on sale that might do a lot to get rid of the cheap, dangerous electrical goods – often unbranded and of unknown origin.

“Independent testing” has been discussed before. Many reputable manufacturers do. However, I do not consider the general problem is solvable by independent testing. – quite apart from the huge resource required. Reputable companies generally do not knowingly put unsafe products on the market. It is the disreputable companies that deliberately flout the regulations and, for example, will fake documents (and testing, independent or otherwise). Even if they produce a product and have it “independently tested” they can go on to manufacture the product differently, or with poor quality control, so that it is non-compliant under the shelter of “independent results”. We are dealing with people who evade regulations.

It is also irresponsible, negligent and criminal distributors in the EU (including the UK) who import and sell these products. Independent testing will not stop such behaviour. Punitive and deterrent sanctions against these distributors could make it not worth their while. A job for Trading Standards or an equivalent.

Even if Trading Standards was properly funded it would be unlikely to stop dangerous products being put on sale.“. As with many activities we need an effective “authority” to help enforce rules and regulations. To maintain product safety and standards we should have an organisation that collates reported problems, preferably directly from consumers and consumer organisations, that identifies non-compliant products, their sources and distributors and acts swiftly to remove them from sale, informs the public and takes effective action against those who knowingly or negligently distribute or market those products. Action should be severe enough to act as a deterrent.

This role was officially given to Trading Standards as the UK’s Market Surveillance Authority. We should, if we want proper consumer protection, establish it on a proper basis, fund it and resource it adequately. How else might we do it?

How can Trading Standards be aware that – for example – a phone charger or power bank does not contain a fuse or other safety component without examining one or more samples? It’s not good enough to wait until someone has one fail and sets their house on fire. Look at all the examples that Which? discovered recently.

Let us agree to differ, Malcolm.

They cannot, without examining them, doing spot checks on imports, responding to complaints.,…… My point is that it is the legal responsibility of importers and distributors to ensure the products they handle are compliant. They are obliged legally to make all the necessary checks including the validity of testing and supporting documentation such as the Technical construction Files in the case of CE marked products. Avoid producers who are dodgy. If they do are found not to carry out this responsibly then they should be deterred from trading by suitable sanctions.

“Independent testing” will not solve these problems. People simply get round such matters. Stop them coming in to the UK by doing our best to eliminate the rogue, negligent and irresponsible distributors.

This is not about whether or not we differ but using Convos to explore topics, offer different views, look for possible solutions, for anyone interested. Maybe there are better ways but re-establishing Trading Standards properly can only help – in my opinion.

Patricia Marchand says:
2 October 2019

I recently had an electrician part of check a trade who came to add few sockets, change my fuses board and check all my electric in view to give me a certificate.
Few weeks later one if the new fuses went down and I had to call him, but he was not available so called another electrician who found burnt wires in a new socket. The guilty apparatus was a little plastic connector sold by tools station. I reported this to tools station who treated my emails as to bin.
I took the photo of the offending object causing the problems and the opened socket with the burnt wires.

I am not sure what you can do if another electrician has already rectified the problem.

It might be worth getting a statement from the second electrician and giving this plus your photo to Citizens Advice in case they are carrying out substandard work. It’s not normal to use small plastic connectors inside sockets.

It might also be worth having the new wiring examined and tested by a competent electrician.

Wavechange it looks like the installation electrician didn’t allow enough “tails ” to the wiring -IE – left it too short and used a cheap plastic connector to add on extra cable.
That is illegal and I am wondering why the electricity company electrician who inspected it did not remove the front covers to inspect each socket ?

I presume that Patricia is referring to Wago-style connectors or the old ‘chocolate block’ connectors that would melt easily if there is a high resistance connection. I have never seen connectors behind a power socket but once found one with no earth connection when I moved into a flat that had recently been rewired.

I have no idea what an inspection entails but I doubt that this would go as far as removing every socket and inspecting the wiring unless problems had already been discovered. I would hope that sockets would be checked for polarity and an adequate earth connection.

Wavechange I am holding in my hand a high quality Megger — digital loop tester that not only tests polarity but will test -2 stages of earth loop testing giving a result down to -0.01 ohms
This type of tester is standard issue to an Electricity supplier electrician who is sent by the company to verify the quality of the complete installation , even a reading of 1 ohm is too high as current build up can cause a fatal accident if the latest electronic fuses are not fitted ( which include a live to earth sensor (30ma limit ).
I am only still alive due to my high body resistance – thick skin/dry hands but the worst mains shock left my left arm in much pain for days .

The latest Meggers even do a ramp test that shows the current at which an RCD will trip. This helps troubleshoot cases of nuisance tripping caused by excessively sensitive RCDs (or RCBOs). Yes, one of the benefits of RCDs is that they don’t require as good an earth connection, but in older installations with fuses the resistance should be as low as possible.

I was not aware that electricity supply companies would carry out electrical safety inspections on customers’ installations. The pre-privatisation electricity boards provided that service [at cost] as well as undertaking other household electrical installation work like rewires or additional sockets and lighting points. Electricians I have employed inspect, test and certificate their own work because they are qualified in accordance with Part P of the Building Regulations. Some of them probably rely on the customer not checking what goes on behind the faceplates.

If that is the case then I am well out of date , I bought a flat in a city and got it rewired it required the electricity company to pass it.
I read “Part P” ,it seems BS 7671 is no longer mandatory and that LABC-Local Authority Building Control are responsible now , in all honesty -IMO- that’s a downgrade as many wiring installations get passed now leaving customers with many complaints whereas the old electric companies had a high standard and long service employees .
All part of privatisation I suppose.

Householders are allowed to do certain tasks such as replacing switches and sockets but most work must be done by a qualified electrician to BS 7671, variously referred to as Part P and the 18th edition wiring regulations. Those electricians that belong to NCEIC and possibly other organisations, can self-certify their work, and have to go through annual revalidation.
https://www.niceic.com/find-a-contractor/electrics-explained/what-is-part-p

I don’t understand your comment that BS 7671 is no longer mandatory, Duncan.

In the text I read Wavechange it said its now classed as “advisory “.

Do you have a link please, Duncan? Having ten year checks on electrical installations in private property is only advisory but I would be very surprised if the recently revised standard is not compulsory.

No problem Wavechange , its a wiki on electrical wiring –
under – Regulatory -BS7671 – “Requirements for Electrical Installations .IET Wiring Regulations “—
these are detailed rules for the design,installation and sign off for user end electrical installations .
Compliance with BS7671 is NOT mandatory , but official guidance states following BS7671 is one way to DEMONSTRATE compliance with the building regulations .

Thats not the same as strict compliance –
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_wiring_in_the_United_Kingdom
Remember I was talking about -complete installation including the fuse box as the poster mentioned replacement of it.

Thanks Duncan. I’m not sure what to make of this since the Wikipedia article gives no reference to the source of the information.

Perhaps we should leave this here because it is unlikely to help Patricia.

BS7671 is a guide to good practice, not mandatory, as I understand it. However, following its guidance will ensure compliance with regulations that are mandatory, such as the Electricity at Work Regulations and, presumably, the Building Regs.

DerekP says:
4 October 2019

Some useful guidance can also be found on this website:-http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/standards.htm