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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.”


DerekP, I’m sure you qualify as a responsible regular so if you ask you should be added to the list of “trusties”. However, it seems to me that a shortened link that is “exempt” from moderation can be easily opened and the damage will be done if it is a bad site.

Shewaye says:
25 June 2019

I just revived the hair straightener I ordered and it and it has 2 plugs.
The company name is Current body.

Chris L says:
15 September 2019

I have just received a monitor sold by Amazon (not a 3rd party seller) which does not have a 3 pin plug…

Kim Hayes says:
24 November 2019

I’ve just been sent a display cabinet from an eBay seller which only has a two pin fitted plug

Kim Hayes says:
24 November 2019

I recently received a display cabinet from an eBay seller with only a fitted two pin plug

That is an illegal sale. You can reject the cabinet as not fit for purpose either for a compliant replacement or for a full refund. If you are competent, or have access to someone who is, you could replace the plug with a standard UK 13 A plug.

The question of earthing needs to be checked. I consider it unlikely that the cabinet is double insulated so it is advisable to make sure it is earthed; the plug that is fitted might have earth contacts on the edge for fitting continental sockets but you will not be able to tell if there are two or three cores in the cable until the plug is dismantled.

My personal view is that you should reject the product and make the seller pay for its return. I think you should also report it to e-Bay.

I suggest you ask for a refund because the product does not comply with the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994, and also report the seller to eBay, as John has suggested.

Kim Hayes says:
25 November 2019

Thank you