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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.”

Thomas says:
23 September 2020

It is now 2020 and the same problem still exists with Amazon. I ordered a coffee grinder and it came with a European plug. I tried calling the supplier but all I ever get is a message saying “The system is busy. Please try again later.” I’ve tried calling on-line chat with Amazon but I seem to be constantly chatting to a “bot”. The “bot” says “Sorry to hear there was a problem with this. Give me a minute to check on this” That’s as far as I ever get as I never hear from the “bot” again.

Hi Thomas – I suggest you send back the coffee grinder and get a full refund including postage. If you bought the product from the Amazon UK website it would be worth mentioning that the product does not comply with The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994.

Please could you say if the product was sold by Amazon or one of the Marketplace traders.

Thomas, if this was bought from Amazon – not their market place which can flout all the rules – then it should be reported to Trading Standards (good luck with that) as they are acting illegally.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho, Jon, Which? will by now have a lot of examples of where Amazon have been involved in the supply of illegal 2-pin plugs from reports over the years on Convos. They can find out from the commenters whether they were bought directly through Amazon as opposed to their market place. Amazon are then responsible for selling an illegal product. Are Which? going to take any action to try to have Amazon prosecuted so this activity can, hopefully, be stopped?