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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
Guest
Jim Gallagher says:
18 June 2018

I ordered an Anker docking station from Amazon. (Fulfilled by Amazon, not the marketplace). It arrived yesterday and, on opening I discovered it didn’t have a UK plug. As this item required power to work it meant that I couldn’t use it by itself.
Contacted Amazon – they told me that – firstly this was ‘as described’ – I pointed out that the UK regulations require electrical goods to have a UK plug. Amazon also stated that I should contact the manufacturer – I advised that they were the seller and they were responsible. They then advised that I should buy a plug (they offered to knock 5% off the order price for this) – I didn’t know what plug to buy and was concerned that that may invalidate any warranty.
They offered a full refund, which I took. But they didn’t appear to acknowledge that this was an issue. I am concerned that they can sell goods without at least advising customers that they needed another item to make it work. I also think they they should have supplied a plug. When I contacted them I expected an apology and a promise that they would send out the missing plug. I’d have been happy to wait a few days. Instead I spent one hour on Amazon Chat, sent back an item I actually wanted and have no motivation for considering an alternative. A hundred pound item and they don’t supply a plug, REALLY!
It is sad that this article is dated six years ago but this still appears to be an issue.

Guest

As Jim has proved beyond a shadow of doubt all the talk of the day ongoing ad infinitum changes nothing , as I keep pointing out Amazon are too big to control no matter how many excuses-platitudes- and “helpful advice ” is said nothing is going to change . I have already put the case on why nothing will change but if somebody will tell me -on the 4th of July -2018 this will all stop and all plugs included in electrical equipment will come fitted with UK type plugs when bought directly from Amazon I will bow down to them but its a safe bet in the year 3000 Amazon/Google/ MIcrosoft /Sky /etc will be running Britain and still based in that Eire tax haven for European operation .Long before then I might be back on earth due to reincarnation still causing unrest. Meanwhile the vote on keeping the public in the dark on trade deals is coming up –it doesn’t look good.

Guest

You should not have to acquire and fit a plug yourself when buying an electrical product. So long as they can get away with a refund Amazon will not address this issue, but a refund is not what customers want – they want a working compliant product as ordered.

Which? should hang its head in shame over its failure to sort this problem out with Amazon. Until it is resolved there should be no more favourable mentions of Amazon in any Which? publications and the reason should be clearly publicised.

Guest

@patrick Patrick – Here is another case of Amazon (rather than a Marketplace trader) not complying with the law. Please could Which? contact Trading Standards and keep up the pressure until action has been taken. As I’ve said before, this is not just a matter of convenience but a safety issue, although most people are not aware of this. Now that product safety is clearly part of the remit of Which?, we need to see action.

Guest

Hi Wavechange, thanks for sharing. We have just published a story on action we’ve forced from Amazon and Ebay to remove dangerous products from their online listings:

Carbon monoxide alarms bought from Amazon and Ebay have repeatedly failed to detect the killer gas in recent Which? lab tests and would be potentially lethal in your home if there were to be a build-up of carbon monoxide. Based on the terrifying test results we’ve seen, we have no hesitation in making all four models Don’t Buys.

When we raised our concerns with Amazon and Ebay, the two sites removed the listings for the alarms that had failed our tests. Both sites also removed another 50 alarms that look identical to the unbranded alarms – this is because our test results this year, and in 2016, lead us to believe they cannot be trusted to detect CO. Amazon told us that sellers need to follow its guidelines or face having their accounts removed. Ebay said customer safety is its number one priority and it works with Trading Standards to ensure only lawful products are listed.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:

‘It’s extremely concerning that these unsafe alarms were being sold by major retailers, and anyone who has one of these alarms should replace it straight away. ‘When household names such as Amazon and Ebay are selling products that could put consumers at risk, it is clear more must be done by businesses and the Government to proactively identify potentially dangerous products and stop them from entering people’s homes.’

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/06/the-lethal-carbon-monoxide-alarms-we-found-on-amazon-and-ebay/

There’s other work we’re doing on this behind the scenes, but I unfortunately can’t share it publicly just yet! I hope this shows how we take product safety issues like this on Amazon and Ebay seriously.

Guest

@patrick Patrick – Sorry I missed your post. For me, this is Which? at its best. A serious safety problem has been identified and dealt with promptly. But, as I mentioned elsewhere, will Amazon and eBay contact those who have already purchased non-compliant carbon monoxide alarms. Only when I have seen evidence that this has been done successfully will I believe what these companies have said about this issue.

I also appreciate that Which? is devoting resources into improving product safety, but when will we see an end to products being sold with the wrong plug, by Amazon and others?

Guest
Patrick Taylor says:
26 June 2018

“There’s other work we’re doing on this behind the scenes”

You are probably unaware that Which? has in the past decade talked of speaking to the parties concerned etc. and we never see anything following the statement. I of course will be pleased if something is announced but I am having trouble thinking why anything need be behind the scenes – transparency is a much appreciated attribute especially when we fund the organisation.

I had hoped that if any distributor sells life critical devices they will be liable for their efficacy. This may mean that the supply is restricted but in the interests of saving lives that is a small price to pay.

Guest
Ken May says:
6 August 2018

Just received an electrical appliance via Amazon and noted that previous buyers received one with an American plug fitted. Mine had NO plug (cut off) so Amazon are nearly there.!!!