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Two-pin plugs – it’s just not British

Two-pin plug

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

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

Plugs – when two-pins aren’t enough

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

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

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

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

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

Comments
Member

I have asked for a refund and have been told that a courier will pick up the microwave and then the refund will be made.
I wouldn’t class myself as stupid but I do feel stupid. I have an honours degree in accounting and worked for 14 years in financial services compliance management before having my son and leaving work so I do have some brains. But I am the first to admit that I know NOTHING about electrical stuff, other than how to change a plug (NOT a 2 pin one)! Had I not stumbled on this thread, I probably would have continued trying out different adapter plugs and would have been none the wiser. I’m horrified to think that there could be countless people in the same position who haven’t had the opportunity to avail of the advice in these comments. It seems like it’s only a matter of time before someone dies as a result of this situation having been allowed to continue.

Member

Most people are like you without the knowledge to recognise faulty items or faulty solutions, and the ability to deal with them correctly. That is what consumer law is meant to protect. It is no good having a return and refund policy to deal with an illegal and potentially unsafe item. The supply of such items should be stopped to protect the public.

I’m glad your post sparked off (re-ignited) this Convo and hopefully we might get some expert legal advice and proposed actions from Which?, who instigated this Convo in 2012. If there is nothing they can do, telling us would be useful (if worrying).

If you go direct to an overseas supplier then I’d suggest you take responsibility for the item you import. However, if you are guided to an overseas supplier by Amazon, through their market place, where they presumably make money, then I would have thought Amazon have some responsibility for the products that are purchased with their involvement. It is this area I would like Which? to look at particularly.

Hope your refund goes through smoothly. We’ve a Panasonic microwave that performs well (actually, an internal fuse did blow but John Lewis had it collected and repaired quite quickly).

Member

Hi Ellie – Please could you take a photo of the plug on the oven/grill before it is collected. It could be useful to send it to Which? and maybe they could put it on this page so that we know what sort of plug you have been given.

Member

I posted a link to the photo I took yesterday both as a reply and as a comment bit it’s still waiting moderation.

Member

Thanks Ellie. I will ‘report’ your comment. 🙂

Member

Hi Ellie, I released your comment this morning – https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/plugs-two-pin-british-amazon-electrical-appliances/#comment-1488326. We moderate all URLs posted on Convo so they won’t appear automatically. Thanks

Member

Oops. Sorry I missed that, Lauren. 🙁

The offending plug seems to be a CEE 7/7 plug, which has side Earth connection strips but also fits French sockets that have an Earth pin in the socket: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_power_plugs_and_sockets#CEE_7.2F7_plug

If fitted into an adaptor without Earth contacts, there is the risk of electrocution if a fault develops.

Member

Sorry Lauren. I had missed that too.

Member

Here is a page of advice for consumers, from the Amazon UK website: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201365220&qid=1496764767&sr=1-1

I am not sure why it is listed under Mobiles. 🙁

“Plugs
Under the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 it is a criminal offence to place on the market or supply in the UK an appliance which is not fitted with either i) a UK 3 pin plug, or ii) a non-UK plug permanently fitted with a UK safety approved conversion plug (NB the conversion plug must enclose the fitted non-UK plug and only be removable by use of a tool). As this is considered a safety issue, there are no exceptions. It is not enough, for example, to provide a 3-pin plug adaptor or to make the origin of the appliance clear on the detail page. Possible sanctions for breach are fines and/or imprisonment.”

A consumers contract is with Amazon, which takes their money, often via registration of cards on the Amazon website. It subtracts its commission and passes on the balance to Marketplace traders.

It’s not just their Marketplace traders that supply goods with the wrong plugs but Amazon itself. Trawling through the many pages of this or the other Conversation will provide examples from Amazon UK and the fact that Amazon are doing this is implied by the introduction to this Convo. Maybe it’s easier to forget about the Marketplace traders for the present and focus on the fact that Amazon is breaking the law and are obviously aware of this because they have the information on their own website.

Member

@ldeitz, I am sure Which? will appreciate the concerns we all express about Amazon over its attitude towards and involvement in selling appliances with 2-pin plugs that are illegal in the UK.

Will you ask Which? to make a clear statement on the legality of this trade by Amazon, both direct and through its market place. It is not a question of a refund policy but of selling goods that are illegal and can be potentially dangerous in the hands of the consumer. We do keep asking but with no response.

Member

Market Place according to US sources accounts for 40 % of Amazon sales , in the USA its counter-fitting that is big business since Amazon opened up the market to China . To get an overall idea of the Amazon Market Place and an insight into its business practices go to : http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/08/amazons-chinese-counterfeit-problem-is-getting-worse.html I know some will say-well how does that apply to 2 pin plugs ? well think –where will third party sellers get their goods at the cheapest price , and where do most electrical products for domestic use come from ?? – the Land of Built to a Price and what products are cheaper to buy wholesale ?? – 2 pin products for the biggest market- the EU (outside the USA ) , its only natural that a buyer would want to make the biggest profit , why insist Chinese manufactures produce minority products at a higher cost -bigger production line – bigger discount on mass produced products thats always been the case . By the way I found a US website with a long list of Chinese “knock-off” companies -naming them when would you see that in the UK ?????

Member

I have been told that it’s not difficult to find counterfeit products on the Amazon website, Duncan, so I decided to have a go at just looking through product images. I found this example within minutes: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Metre-Kettle-Mains-Power-Cable/dp/B01GG2P64U/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pl_foot_top?ie=UTF8 Not a single reviewer has picked up on the fact that it is obviously counterfeit because it has a partially-sleeved Earth pin. That’s dangerous because the plastic rather than metal part of the pin would contact the Earth connection in the socket.

Member

It’s also not suitable for a kettle because it is fused at only 5 Amps. People might buy one for use with a kettle and find it blows when the kettle is switched on. It obviously has other uses so the description is wrong.

Member

Your right John that advert Wavechange posted just shows up the total disregard of Amazon in regard to British public safety . I just checked my fast boil kettle and its 3 Kilowatts thats over 12 AMPS , even a normal kettle in the UK is at least 2 Kilowatts -8 AMPS . Thats not all one of the charity shops I visit had a Chinese made “kettle” plug+cable that somebody had handed in because they thought it was dangerous , I was given it for free when I pointed this out and when I took it home I measured the cross-sectional area of the cable conductors and if it had been used the actual cable would have overheated due to lack of current carrying capacity . We will now find out who has the most power -Amazon or the British Public, disgraceful doesn’t come close . By the way Amazon dont get away with this in their own country-America they are VERY strict there in regards to electrical safety and Amazon knows it .

Member

These leads are sold for computer, printers, etc. They are often called ‘kettle leads’ even though they will not fit kettles because of the lack of a recess in the plug, which a proper kettle lead will have. The lowest review rating refers to the fuse blowing when used on a kettle, so maybe they have a counterfeit kettle.

One of the reasons why the US escapes some counterfeit products is that they use a lower mains voltage than most companies. It’s not just stricter standards.

Member

To clarify, what I meant is that the US escapes some of the dangerous and counterfeit electrical products imported into Europe because the US uses a different mains voltage.

Member

I seem to have a box full of them [and other handy cables and connectors] and had no idea they were called ‘kettle leads’.

One of the primary functions of local trading standards/consumer protection departments was to keep a look out for counterfeit products, especially hazardous or potentially harmful ones, and disrupt the supply chain. It seems that the supply chain has been institutionalised now and is a mainstream activity. I would have expected the legitimate industries that are being undersold to have risen up and pressed the government to restore proper enforcement capabilities [a government obedient to big business would surely have done that]. I believe protection from counterfeit goods is one of the priority areas supposed to be addressed by National Trading Standards but they operate in an obscure and largely unaccountable way so it is not easy to see whether they are focussed on that function.

Member

To say something positive, Trading Standards put in a lot of effort to deal with the dangerous hoverboards. There were various problems including plugs with no mains fuse. I suspect that dealing with consignments of dangerous and counterfeit goods forms a substantial part of their work.

Whoever developed the standards for these plugs did not think that the leads might get mixed up and a kettle lead with a 13 amp fuse could be connected to a low power appliance that should have a smaller fuse. With a tiny amount of thought, this could have been avoided.

Member

Hi @elliebungo – Please can you give as an update on what happened about your oven/grill.

You are very welcome to join in with the hundreds of other Conversations.

Member

Sorry, I somehow missed your comment @wavechange. I got a full refund which was processed very quickly. However, when I watched the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower and heard the words “faulty fridge” and “it’s only a matter of time before something catastrophic happens”, this thread did cross my mind. Does it take a terrible tragedy to occur before something is done?

Member

That’s good news, but I expect that products with the wrong plugs will continue to be sold via the Amazon website. There’s little we can do as individuals. Sooner or later there will be an accident shown to be linked to use of a product with the wrong sort of plug. Until then, I expect that Amazon will continue to break the law.

We may never know the cause of the horrific fire but fridges and freezers commonly use isobutane as refrigerant. It’s in a sealed system but if there is a leak – which is not uncommon in fridges and freezers – there is the danger of a gas explosion. The old CFC refrigerants were not a fire risk but believed to damage the ozone layer. Safe alternative refrigerants are available, but isobutane is cheap. 🙁

Member

Two weeks ago I asked Which? if they would comment on Amazon’s legal position, both as the primary supplier as marketplace operator. Still waiting. Is no one prepared to take up this cause?

Member

Hello everyone, I wanted to update you on the latest on this issue. We raised the issue of @elliebungo ‘s experience with buying a microwave supplied with a two-pin plug. Amazon told us that third party sellers are required to sell electrical products marked with a CE symbol and with the correct three-pin plug – it’s part of the T&Cs for them to use the website (or risk suspension if not).

Ellie should have been offered a replacement with a three-pin plug and not a voucher to be able to fix the item herself. If the retailer for doesn’t pull through on its obligations, then you can use Amazon A-Z Guarantee to seek redress.

Amazon has asked for us to report on any other cases we see like this as, if they receive notice of repeated incidents, they may suspend the retailer’s access to the site. It is absolutely fine for the retailer to source products with the CE symbol and a two-pin plug, but it’s up to them to change the plug to a three-pin one before selling in the UK.

Member

Thank you for the statement Lauren.

It is awkward that knowing Which? derives money from Amazon it is very embarrassing if there is a lack of militancy on the part of Which? in addressing Amazon’s failures on safety regulation.

Perhaps so readers are aware of the “score” Which? will keep us informed also of the number of subscriber complaints etc.

Incidentally I have been told that Which? has no complaints procedure. Is this true?

Member

Thanks for the link to this article:
cnbc.com/2016/07/08/amazons-chinese-counterfeit-problem-is-getting-worse.html

It is fairly chilling to read of the US experience where home-grown US businesses our knocked out by Chineses clones assisted by Amazon policy.

Looking at the Amazon reviews of the plug highlighted by Wavechange it seems obvious to me that there are a lot of bogus reviews for it. You may note that a number of reviews are from certified buyers.

When considering the gaming of the system some years ago I realised that for a company the cost of having people buy your product and then write a review is actually trivial in relation to the potential benefit. Especially if you recycle the physical product immediately t the despatch point.

Obviously Amazon has no interest at all in policing the market but I would be very curious as to the disposition of all the addresses that goods are despatched to.

Judging by the article cited at the beginning of my post the problems with Amazon and fakes is growing more rapidly than ever.

Member

@ldeitz, I am sure you think I’m a pain, but the question asked above, and previously, never seems to get an answer. This Convo, with 1623 comments, has surely shown there is a continuing problem. Can Which? not simply make a statement on the legal position of Amazon supplying 2 pin plugs, direct and through their market place? If this is illegal and surely Which? should be prepared to take action. How many examples are needed to demonstrate a problem exists? 🙂

Member

Hi Patrick, Which? has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to being impartial and objective. No relationship with any third party affects that commitment.

In this specific example of @elliebungo receiving a microwave with a two-pin plug, we don’t come across many examples of two pin products being sold on the UK market, but when we have come across them in member reports or Convo comments we do challenge the retailers. In this instance, we asked Amazon to explain to us how a marketplace trader has been allowed to sell a microwave with a two-pin plug. On the complaints procedure, members can complain directly to Member Services.

Member

Hi Malcolm, I’m not sure what legal statement you want us to make here? The legal issue as we see it is in the content of this convo: ‘It’s actually illegal for UK retailers to sell most domestic electrical products (not for example shavers, electric toothbrushes or items with rcd plugs) with two-pin plugs under the Plugs and Sockets Safety Regulations 1994. Most domestic appliances must be fitted with an approved three-pin British plug or an approved conversion plug.

Plugs – when two-pins aren’t enough
We wanted to dig deeper to see how widespread this problem was. So we surveyed 1,321 Which? members and found that one in 20 had bought a product online that came with an incorrect plug. A third of those were Amazon (including its Marketplace) customers.

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

We maintain this position and that’s why we raise the issue with retailers every single time we come across a new report.

Member

Hi Lauren @ldeitz – I missed yesterday’s discussion but I would like Which? to report the issue to Trading Standards and push for them to take action against Amazon and other companies that are breaking the law.

Please can you find out who is legally responsible if an Amazon Marketplace trader breaks the law. I assume that Amazon is responsible because they take our money, even though most of it is passed on to the trader.

I suspect that many see the issue as an unnecessary convenience, but supplying goods with the wrong plug can result is some serious safety issues, depending on how users deal with the problem.

Member

SO effectively what you are saying is that despite the Consumers’ Association having legal powers none of these can be applied to a retailer/facilitator who repeatedly sells goods that breach the UK regulations designed to protect against death and injury. Would that cover it?

If that is the case should Which? be campaigning for legislation to prevent Amazon avoiding its facilitation of this potential dangerous trade in electrical goods.

If it were a local shop selling them one would take action against the shop and also the importer into the UK. Here we have a situation where someone effectively does the advertising for the product and gets paid based on its sales yet feels it is not party to the breach.

I see no reason why Which? does not explain, with legal input, to members the powers it does have and the relevance to the situation we have here.

Member

I have posted several times , but obviously it hasn’t sunk in that Amazon has a written T+C disclaimer in regards to Amazon Marketplace in that they are only there as an agent of the seller in regards to the monetary transaction and cant be held liable for errors etc in any sellers advertising of their product or sold item . I even posted a link at the time so Which regulars could read the rules but I forget the URL now , so I dont understand the the fuss now they make it perfectly plain. How are Which Legal Dept going to change a US company with US laws in place , you would need to legislate against Amazon which has a budget bigger than some very small countries and has some very heavy sway on other countries . No matter how “righteous ” you think the cause is, – is Which+ HMG going to impose a change of regulations on a large US conglomerate ? Personally I dont see it and knowing the American business physic you can get in very big trouble upsetting them and I am talking International Trade. I am just being realistic.

Member

Lauren – Which? being impartial and objective is not actually what it was set up to do in 1957. It was to be partial to the consumers side on the basis that business is well able to look after itself.

Since the distant days of the wise Socketman who started posting 4 years ago on this 2012 topic what has happened to clamp down on the trade in dubious electric adapter sockets and wrongly wired appliances.

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

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

In 2017 we have:
“Amazon has asked for us to report on any other cases we see like this as, if they receive notice of repeated incidents, they may suspend the retailer’s access to the site.”

Is that may as in may not? And how many repeated incidents? Seems that asking Amazon to police itself is not likely to work and therefore something heavier is needed.

But is it really a problem area ! Are we being gullible and overstating the risks of electrocution or fires – and that the British Standards are not that important anyway. Perhaps an article succinctly putting the dangers and probabilities of incidents might place this all in context where subscribers feel they can get a handle on the matter.

Member

I recall this, Duncan, but if I buy from an Amazon Marketplace trader via the Amazon website, it is Amazon that is banking my money.

Most of us would be wary about buying electrical goods from a market stall run by a trader that we have not heard of, but Amazon has very cleverly encouraged us to use unheard of traders on the basis that we assume that Amazon will take responsibility for any problems. In most cases this seems to work well but there seems little doubt that Amazon are permitting use of their website for illegal trade. It’s not just the Marketplace traders and Amazon is selling goods with illegal plugs.

I think it would be best to refer the matter to Trading Standards and for Which? to push TS for prompt action.

Member

@ldeitz, the legal position for Amazon-supplied products seems clear. I was concerned about their liability in the case of their marketplace traders where Amazon are involved financially.

What I wanted to know was why Which? do not instigate legal proceedings against Amazon, directly or through Trading Standards for example, when there are repeated violations reported of the law on plugs? Simply telling us that they have a returns policy is not the point. I suspect most here want to see penalties applied to traders who ignore the law, with a view to seeing the trade in illegal 2 pin plugs stopped.

Raising the issue with retailers does not appear to be effective and not really addressing the problem consumers have raised here for the last 5 years. No more then retailers ignoring SoGA and the CRA. I simply think Which? is not fulfilling its consumer protection role in these cases. 🙂

Member

No retailers Terms and Conditions can override the law, duncan.

Member

I entirely agree with you, Wavechange.

The fact that Amazon have put something in their terms and conditions which purports to excuse themselves from any liability for non-compliant products does not necessarily make it legal. As I have also said many times before, Amazon host the trader, advertise the product, include descriptions and pictures of it on their website, print reviews, promote the sale, receive the order, take the money, coordinate and report back on dispatch and delivery, manage returns, carry out after-sales enquiries, and badger you to buy another one a few weeks later. If that is not ‘”exposing for sale” I don’t know what is, and further, what part of all that is not a selling process? We have laws on unfair contract terms which perhaps should be tested. Being an American company does not put Amazon beyond the reach of the UK courts but somebody has to start an action. Only a body such as Trading Standards or the Consumers Association is in a position to do that having all the expertise, legal resources, and locus standi needed to take it to court. It is a cause worth fighting for and goes far beyond the issue of 2-pin plugs. The only practical alternative I can think of is to persuade the government to make a statutory instrument prohibiting the use of trading fronts to frustrate consumer rights.

I am somewhat disappointed by Amazon’s rather weak response to Which?, but it’s par for the course. I just wish Which? wouldn’t put up with it.

As Wavechange says, Amazon itself is also selling non-compliant products. “Oh, but you can return them” they say. That just is not good enough. Far be it from me to praise certain other major electrical and IT retailers of our acquaintance, but even they don’t stoop so low.

Member

Yes they can malcolm if they are called Amazon. -Globalisation. Look at the companies using European countries where they are not held liable for legislation in the country they sell in. Its along the same lines as Amazon European headquarters being in Eire- tax haven .

Member

Had court action been taken years ago, this could have been nipped in the bud, John. So often we allow problems to escalate because of the lack of prompt action. Which? could certainly provide Trading Standards with the information needed to support a legal case.

Member

Anything sold in this country must comply with UK law, Duncan. The origin of the seller is irrelevant. Let’s not equivocate on this as it creates doubts in consumers’ minds and making excuses for Amazon gives them comfort. The UK electrical regulations are very clear and are not in conflict with EU directives.

Member

Then why is the full force of the law not implemented against Amazon ? I dont see any middle ground in cases like this John . Globalisation changes countries legal rules just like TTIP would give US big business control over local government legislation. If TM comes to an agreement with the Donald then you can bet its in his favour allowing US commercial companies to control this country.

Member

We’ll have to agree to differ on whether anyone can be above the law, duncan.

Member

Anyone can be above the law malcolm -taken literally -yes – who says all the time -quote- its not in the public interest – when those in high places break the law ? I have a very long shocking list of celebrities/ ex MP,s / pop stars/ those at the top of society who can break the law with impunity , including two ex MP,s (female ) who think its okay for adults to have sex with children- if they consent .

Member

If – and it’s a big “if” – the UK Parliament approves the government entering into a trade deal with the USA it would be a mutual treaty with benefits for both sides. If the terms are not acceptable we cannot be forced to sign it.

You ask “why is the full force of the law not implemented against Amazon ?” Good question. I can’t possibly defend the failure or refusal to prosecute them for selling illegal goods. It is possible that no one, or not enough people, have made a formal complaint that was not resolved by a refund or compliant replacement. And, as you know, Amazon must be presumed to be innocent until they are proved guilty.

Member

In America -where Amazon has its Headquarters there is a difference between Counterfeit goods and Copies not sold a “originals ” . I intentionally using a counterfeit mark can incur damages of 3 times the value of the goods , an offer to sell can also invoke counterfeit laws . An ISP hosting such websites selling fake goods could be liable for contributory infringement -Louis Vuitton v Akanoc Solutions -California Law 591-F-Supplementary 2d 1098 -ND-Cal-2008., A corporation limits your liability . Alibaba-Ebay – Amazon are the biggest hitters . While this is going on I found a USA website -how to import cheap products from China to sell in the USA – easy ******* business.com, even the website looks cheap and sleazy but even that website says you cant buy direct via the phone from mainland China because the Chinese government insists by strict law (hard labour/death ) that they know everything that is exported from China , exactly as I have been saying on Which for a while that second hand goods are NOT returnable to China if faulty because its the Chinese government that controls ALL exports not the millions of companies there. Seemingly its even overwhelming the US Administration except in drug cases and other serious fakes where they use the whole US forces to catch the criminals even overseas , one lot was selling fake batteries with the original Made in China label removed –they got them in Turkey. Lets be realistic I have known for along time Which derives income from Amazon but lets be “big boys ” most websites get money from third parties its how they survive or make profit , it might not be “cricket ” but this is 2017 the world has changed , as I have said before there are many websites where you cant criticize their benefactors – eg- Google- Microsoft- SKY- etc-etc and I have been kicked off several for doing just that at least Which allows criticism.

Member

Duncan mentioned the responsibility of an ISP for hosting dodgy websites. I know someone who contacted an ISP when the owners of a website on their server published material that contained obvious libel. The questionable material was removed and no further criticism of the individual has been made on the website, to the best of my knowledge.

Member
Rob says:
12 July 2017

Joining here to add to the discussion and get some advice.

I bought an item of Amazon yesterday (it was a leg massager to help with leg cramps) and it arrived today with a 2 pin plug on it. I contacted Amazon and their first response was for me to just return it. I pressed a bit harder as I wanted to keep it (it was a decent Prime Day offer) and they phoned me to discuss it.

They’ve now removed the item from sale while they “launch an investigation” and will update me once they know more from the manufacturer. I made it clear my preference was to get a replacement item with the correct plug. Amazon acknowledged my comment that it was illegal for them to sell this item in the UK and I clarified several times that the item was sent straight from Amazon, there’s no 3rd party seller involved, etc.

The person I talked to was friendly enough and helpful but it also seems like Amazon is getting away with breaking the law and there’s not much we can do about it?

Member

Well something must have struck a cord in Amazon,s corporate board room if they are now saying its illegal to sell this in the UK–Which at work here ? Its much cheaper to sell a mass produced item (for the continent ) than one specifically for the UK so money is involved. Its down to supply+demand . It depends who you bought it off Rob was it Market Place ? but yes something COULD be done but we are talking at government level.

Member

I think Rob made it clear the product came direct from Amazon, not from an Amazon Marketplace trader, so they seem to be acknowledging that they are at risk of prosecution themselves even though they continue to deny any liability in respect of a third party sale that they have hosted, promoted and serviced.

This is another outstanding issue in the Which? waiting list. No more government action is required; the law is clear and being broken.

Member

@cthomas, we keep being given examples of Amazon supplying products with 2-pin plugs which we know is illegal – on each occurrence. So why do Which? not work with trading standards to have them prosecuted for each infringement. This problem seems not to be occasional “mistakes” but has been going on, as the the Convo shows, for 5 years and more. Just what do consumers have to do to get proper protection and the consumer law enforced?

Member

No it isn’t made clear that he was dealing exclusively from Amazon both websites have the same heading and the only difference is in the variety of goods sold .Both have the Amazon header -top left with black border and Amazons official statement is quote -Amazon marketplace is the Amazon website with additional sellers and thats how you notice it -end quote. I have downloaded the exact Amazon official
statement on it if you dont believe me .

Member

Perhaps I misinterpreted Rob’s statement when he said “I clarified several times that the item was sent straight from Amazon, there’s no 3rd party seller involved, etc.“. Whatever, it was an illegal sale.

Member
Graham says:
19 July 2017

May I add a slightly different angle to this debate. I recently purchased a replacement washing machine which came with a moulded on 3 pin fused 13 Amp UK plug. Fine you might say. It also meets UK legal requirements.
However all my under worktop “fixed” kitchen appliances are wired into a spur box which in turn are wired to individual (and labelled) above counter fused and switched outlets. By this means I can isolate the appliance or replace the fuse (if necessary) without having to pull out the appliance to get behind it to a 3-pin plug and socket.
Thus in order to first fit the appliance I have to cut off the moulded plug, strip back the wires and then wire them in to the ( isolated) outlet spur. That is more complex than just plugging it in, but it is a one-off event and thereafter I can manage the appliance from above the worktop. The issue that then arose is that the appliance was delivered faulty and when being exchanged, the supplier’s delivery man said that I had invalidated the warranty by cutting off the moulded plug. I believe that statement was nonsense and the faulty item was exchanged, but it could have made life difficult.
Can I therefore ask for the end of the use of moulded on plugs in these circumstances. The plug can then be readily removed and the wires directly connected to under worktop spur outlets where the kitchen is fitted with those.
Finally, if anyone suggest using a switched and fused spur outlet above the worktop leading a 13 amp socket below, that then leads to two 13 amp fuses in series on the same spur outlet. Not dangerous, but a potential pain if one of the blows, particularly the one in the plug.

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We have switched 13A sockets under the worktops with fused switches above the worktops and I think that is the better arrangement. I have never experienced a blown fuse and the circuits are also protected by RCD’s at the consumer unit. Even if a fuse in the plug were to blow, it is not a huge problem to pull out the appliance in order to identify and hopefully fix the cause of the problem, replace the fuse, test the appliance, clean the area around and behind the appliance, and push it back under the counter. Usually any hosepipes are long enough to enable this without disconnection. I think the safety advantages of moulded-on plugs should not be underestimated.

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Graham-The molded plugs were fitted due to danger of electrocution by the clamp not holding the wires in place , many versions of holding the cable were tried and this is what they ended up with for businesses to sell to customers . Legally cutting off the molded plug would invalidate the guarantee as allowing it would put the company in a difficult legal position if somebody was electrocuted . A switched spur unit like I have to my summer-house /garden shed , which I installed myself , has in- built fuses ( fuse wire-each circuit ) as well as an isolater .

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The arrangement described by John is I believe the current practice for supplying appliances in kitchens and utility rooms. It is convenient when pulling out appliances for cleaning, repair or replacement. I would prefer sockets behind appliances to be protected against moisture, and maybe that will be a requirement at some time in the future.

I agree that moulded plugs are a safer option but would like to see the BS 1363/A (impact-resistant) plugs with a flat surface suitable for labelling. Labelling above-counter isolation switches is easier and is helpful when friends and family are visiting.

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Duncan – I don’t approve of people cutting off plugs and fitting re-wireable plugs because most people are not very good at fitting plugs and choosing appropriate fuses. 🙁 Nevertheless, I don’t see it as a valid reason for invalidating a guarantee if the fault is unrelated to replacing the plug. If someone was electrocuted then obviously the possibility of an incorrectly fitted plug should be considered but examination of the product should establish whether this was a factor or not. It would be interesting to know how my speculations would fare in a court.

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Graham says:
20 July 2017

I guess I am of an age where fitting a plug was a perfectly normal domestic skill to acquire. I do recall a type of plug that accommodated all three wires of equal length and that and a proper wire stripping tool undoubtedly makes the process easier. I guess I could have changed the plate on the under-counter spur outlet to a 13A socket and kept the moulded on plug (John’s arrangement), but I didn’t have one available and was under time pressure to restore a working washing machine to our home!
I also see Johns point that a water/splashproof socket would be better around any plumbing.
Re the main subject, last I knew it is perfectly legal to import an electrical product from elsewhere in the EU (and probably any country). I have bought a couple of appliances from Amazon’s German website as they were significantly cheaper. In such an instance I have to change the EU to a UK plug. I don’t see any difficultly in doing that. Similarly, I have occasionally had to replace a plastic plug that had been accidentally damaged or broken.
Sorry Duncan, but I winced when I read your reference to “a danger of electrocution” when wiring a plug. Next we will be requiring signs at pedestrian road crossings saying “danger of death”. The risk from wiring plugs comes from NOT knowing what you are doing. Given that one day it becomes necessary, we all need to be taught how to correctly do that and then accept responsibility for our actions. Leastways, I am fine with that.

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The first plug designed to take three conductors of the same length was (as far as I’m aware) produced by MK. It was a poor design for two reasons. Firstly, it is essential that there is slack in the Earth wire so that it is last to break if the cable is pulled through the cord grip or the latter is not used. Secondly, the MK plug gripped the outer sheath of the cable between two pieces of plastic. With thin cables, the cable grip was ineffective and with thick cables the grip was difficult to use and many users failed to use it, leaving the three conductors unanchored and visible outside the plug. In other respects, MK has done a great deal to produce high quality and safe products.

I have seen many examples of plugs that have been wired unsafely and was glad to see the introduction of products fitted with plugs – both replaceable and later the moulded plugs.

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Some common sense here Graham – which is what we should be using. Of course some of us are competent enough to wire up plugs, replace light bulbs and install central heating. A couple of my appliances plug into sockets on the underside of the worktops, fed from switched fused units on the wall. They will not be subject to any water ingress.

It all makes you wonder how any of us survive driving on the public highway 🙂

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In reply to Graham- been there-got the T-shirt , spent the 50,s onward changing plugs on every type of domestic equipment and electronic equipment , spent my life repairing/building electronic equipment . Started off with the old bayonet fitting plug to attach to a light socket – no power points in house then 2 pin plugs where if you got it the wrong way round and was repairing an old valve radio with a non-isolated chassis live could be terminated on that chassis . Got the shocks , same with most British TV,s (CRT ) , then 3 pin pin round as Wavechange mentions a few good tugs and live could detach from its brass termination or earth . Then ,as Wavechange says MK plugs worked on every type available – bakelite- plastic – rubber- yes rubber came in various colours , fibre clamp/ steel clamp / tapering V formation . The best mains plugs of the era were ex.WD types brilliant types of holders and clamps of many varieties used on ex WD communication receivers /test equipment . What I was (trying ) to get at -yes you can do it but the business world isn’t happy about you doing so and even the electrical federation recommend molded plugs . Its okay for the likes of me with very thick skin and a high emf -body resistance who has survived shocks that would kill many 1000,s of times but females with fine moist skin could be killed very easily , one of my aunts was blown across the kitchen due to a lose connection on a mains plug.

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Graham – If I could just take up one the points you made above . . . You wrote “it is perfectly legal to import an electrical product from elsewhere in the EU (and probably any country). I have bought a couple of appliances from Amazon’s German website as they were significantly cheaper. In such an instance I have had to change the EU to a UK plug“. While the first part is no doubt true – importing into the UK products with two-pin plugs purchased while abroad – the corollary is not, and this is our bone of contention with Amazon and its MarketPlace traders. It is illegal to sell or to expose for sale in the UK any electrical appliance that does not conform to the UK plugs and sockets regulations unless, in the context of mains plugs, it is fitted with an approved converter device which is attached to the two-pin plug in such a way that it can only be detached with a tool. That is not the exact wording but is what the regs mean. Ideally we want people to be able to use and enjoy their electrical products safely and conveniently from the moment they take them out of the box and not have to learn the hard way or the hazardous way.

By the way, it was not me who made the point about water-resistant plugs and sockets behind water-using appliances. I wasn’t clever enough to think of that point which is relevant where sockets might be at skirting level. Modern installations place the sockets at approximately 50 cm above floor level, but as we know, for many people that is not good enough and they run a four-way extension lead along the floor behind the plinths to connect their appliances to a distant socket.

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As far as I know you can purchase an electrical product directly from abroad (not through he likes of Amazon) and it will arrive with a European plug quite legally. It is your responsibility to deal with it. But in my view, if you buy an electrical appliance through a UK distributor, it must comply with UL law and have either a UK plug or a proper adaptor.

Also as far as I know Which? have never answered the questions asked of them – why they do not pursue Amazon legally when 2 pin plugs are provided on goods that they are responsible for – either through Amazon or their market place.

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I think that’s right, Malcolm, but there could be a technical legal issue over “exposure for sale in the UK”. If the product was on a foreign website in that country’s language and currency and clearly not aimed at the UK market I cannot see a problem and, as you say, the buyer must accept responsibility for any incompatibility with UK systems or non-conformity with UK standards and regulations at their own risk.

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I was looking at the Energizer UK website and that shows a range of wall chargers fitted with two-pin plugs: http://www.energizeyourdevice.com/products/wall-chargers.html The two-pin plug is shown more clearly in this recall notice for three of the chargers.

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People are obviously going to use an adapter, aren’t they? Or try to plug them into a bathroom shaver/toothbrush socket.

I consider a projecting adapter and continental plug as just another potential hazard as they can easily get knocked partly out of the socket.

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The Europlug will fit a modern shaver socket, which is designed to accept either a UK shaver plug or a Europlug. UK shaver adapters will not accept a Europlug.

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I suppose it’s alright to plug a 1 amp wall charger into a bathroom shaver socket but I don’t like the idea. I don’t suppose the water ingress protection on the conductor flex on the device being charged would be as good as on a product designed for use in a bathroom. When I wrote “adapter” I meant a Continental>UK travel adapter which can be picked up anywhere quite cheaply rather than a proper shaver adapter.

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Not at Screwfix (UK) John – rated – 20VA approx 20 watts at 230V AC thats approx – 100 MA not 1000 MA .

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No, that’s right, Duncan, but we were discussing the Energizer products that Wavechange posted a link to [see above]. I was looking at a couple of two-pin wall-chargers on their site that were rated at 1 Amp 5 Watts. I did specifically say “plug a 1 Amp wall charger into a bathroom shaver socket“.

Do the Screwfix products you mentioned have two-pin plugs? I should be surprised if they did.

I don’t have a clue why they are described as wall-chargers. To me they are just chargers.

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They are made for two pin plugs (shaver sockets ) John although they dont seem to sell them. Its “American ” to describe them as “wall-chargers ” thats where it originally came from it took me a while on American websites to reach that conclusion , same as the US-speak- “wall-warts ” . I told you “Americanisation ” of the UK. I can only surmise that as America runs on “autos ” and cars have battery generators (chargers ) they wanted to differentiate between the two . They have a whole string of hard to understand colloquial “American English ” that defies logic.

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John – David Peacock (our Socketman) has written articles on the inadequacy of travel adaptors, including the ‘universal’ type widely sold in shops.

Duncan – I rather like some of the US terminology such as ‘wall-warts’. If I met a US visitor who wanted to fill up their car with gas, I would be tempted to send them to a filling station that sold LPG.

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Yes, and Socketman has also explained very lucidly the illegality of the Amazon MarketPlace selling and supplying products with two-pin plugs into the UK. I tried to find his comments quoting the regulations but it was taking too long.

Duncan – I am getting a bit confused, and its not the American terminology that’s doing it. My points are (a) only products designed to be used in bathrooms, like shavers and toothbrushes, should be plugged into a shaver socket – the pin spacing is slightly different to a Europlug so a Europlug can only be used in one by misuse; (b) shaver adaptors are available to enable a shaver or toothbrush with various 2-pin plug formations to be inserted into a UK 3-pin 13A socket but they do not step down the voltage and rely on the fusing at 1 Amp to make them safe; the pin holes are in a vertical alignment to distinguish them from other forms of adaptor; I regard them as a temporary accessory that should not be used for any other type of device; and (c) two-pin plugs should not be used in UK 13A sockets by means of multiple or combination adaptors since, so far as I am aware, there is no compliance approval for such use and many have no earthing provision for continental plugs with earth contacts; the widely available travel adaptors are not satisfactory as the electrical connexion is loose.I consider it best not to compromise by attempting to make an imperfect connexion.

My view is that that the Energizer chargers with 2-pins, shown in Wavechange’s link should not be sold into the UK market. The problem we now have is that, once one trader starts doing it, others follow and customers assume it is compliant and safe.

I realise I slipped into American in previous posts by using “adapter” instead of “adaptor”. Some American words and usages are, of course, original English forms that went over with the Pilgrim Fathers and later settlers and have not been changed.A lot of the Americanisms in car terminology [like hood (for bonnet), trunk (for boot),and dashboard (for fascia or instrument panel)] derive from the components of horse-drawn carriages which were the chief form of transport in 19th century America.

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The problem with shaver sockets is that despite being marked ‘Shavers only’, these sockets are often used for other purposes. I well remember being at a meeting in Davos and having breakfast with a group of people from a US company that was sponsoring my research at the time. One did not have an adaptor to charge the laptop he would be using to give his presentation and he was told to use the shaver socket in his hotel bathroom, and the others agreed. :-(nnI don’t know how common this is but – as Duncan says – the socket might only be rated at 20W, or 40W at most, well below the requirement for modern laptops. As far as I am aware these sockets have only a single safety devices, such as a self-resetting overheating cutout or a thermistor.

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Having taken several apart in the past Wavechange they have, as a safety feature ( bathrooms/water ) a small mains isolating transformer , which , if it doesn’t have a fuse of a small value has built into the Primary winding a “safety thermal fuse ” . The same was built into my Chinese soldering station and when it overheats due to gross under-specification of the SWG of the Primary winding ( not allowing for 10 %+ overload ) it blows making the transformer a good paperweight and earning the company more sales in spares or a new unit .Gone are the good old British Standards when applied to Chinese goods. Your right Wavechange I have a long list of young people plugging laptops into them and blowing the sockets and then having the cheek to complain about it. I also have a webpages on grossly underspec. Chinese illegal imports of electrical equipment bought by importers for “a song ” .

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A non-resettable thermal fuse buried in the isolation transformer will of course mean that a shaver socket or power adaptor is scrap if overloaded. A friend had a Christmas decoration that contained a 10W halogen capsule and not having a spare, replaced it with a 20W one, which soon killed the adaptor. Sometimes overloading will just burn out the primary winding, as you say. My problem with these fuses is that there is no way of confirming that they have been fitted other than destructive testing. I do hope manufacturers do check each batch they purchase.

I would be interested to know if you have encountered two-pin plugs used unsafely, Duncan. I have seen overseas students turn up, defeat socket shutters and plug in laptop and mobile phone chargers with two pin plugs. We required students to have their laptops etc. PAT-tested, which picked up this problem, but the message did not always get across to new students.

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I’ve just had to replace a shave socket in the main bathroom. It had become very hot to the touch and was emitting a loud buzzing noise. Only ever been used for a beard trimmer and a toothbrush charger.

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The overheating is likely to be due to a shorted turn in the primary winding of the isolation transformer. If it is an old model, it may have been designed for short term use rather than for charging toothbrushes etc. I have a Braun/Oral B toothbrush that can take 36 hours to charge and wonder if the manufacturers have ever looked at a modern mobile phone or laptop.

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And the buzzing is from insufficient number of laminations and /or low quality steel becoming slack due to the overheating – normal practice in China importers importing cheap products .

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Where I work, all foreign visitors (including students) are required to get all personal electrical items PAT tested before they are used.

If they turn up with laptops powered by 3-wire connections, we normally try to lend them proper visitor adaptors (with appropriate) earth connections. When we cannot do that (e.g. because all of our stock is already loaned out) we require them to either provide their own or to not use their devices via our mains.

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Some years back one of the church halls where we hold presentations and displays asked users to ensure that all equipment including extension leads is PAT tested. The local library and archive asks visitors to use laptops on battery power or use their computers.

I routinely carry a socket tester and am wary of using extension leads, having found a couple cross connected L to N and others with no Earth continuity.

It’s a very good idea to provide the correct adaptors for visitors.