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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
Les preston says:
19 March 2016

Well Amazon are still sending appliances out with two pin plugs . I received only two weeks ago two Which best buy Gigaset phones with two pin plugs. They have no intention whatsoever of complying with any regulations. Its the inconvenience of having to order adapters or go through the time consuming process of sending them back. These were advertised as elderly friendly . I had stripped out my old phones only to find, on a Friday night, two of the phones had two pin plugs! I am 74 ! How can that be elderly friendly?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Guest

Les ,as I said in a previous post Amazon are under no legal obligation to force a seller to comply with a regional countries electrical regulations they are only the intermediary supplying a service that allows buying and selling worldwide on the Web. Check out their contract it doesnt obligate them in that direction. Stolen goods ,illegal goods etc –yes but not what you are talking about.

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Guest

duncan lucas, The plugs and Sockets regulations are very clear: “No person shall supply, offer for supply, agree to supply, expose for supply or possess for supply an electrical device unless the requirements (etc etc)” Amazon are NOT just an intermediary, they are offering and/or exposing for sale illegal goods. They are most definitely committing a criminal offence for which the penalty is up to 6 months imprisonment.

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Guest

socketman -the conditions of sale I saw on an Amazon website made it perfectly plain that they were absolving themselves of the responsibility of non-compliance to goods sent to a foreign /overseas country in respect of the electrical regularizations of that country in regards connections because they say they they are not the sellers but only offer to act as an intermediary?agent for the seller.

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I feel such a denial of liability would fail in a UK Court.

Amazon has a huge presence in the UK and they are promoting, through various means which I have outlined elsewhere, the sale of illegal products. They might attempt to shed the entire responsibility onto their seller-accomplice but it would not stand up in Court.

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Guest

All laws of Contract have to legislated for and become part of the countries laws ,that Westminster has not applied those laws against Amazon by prosecuting them and stopping this dead in its tracks by fining them a large sum of money is down to either – the wording of Amazons contract with the seller/buyer in Amazon Marketplace (copyright ) stops/blocks /diminishes the governments law as it stands /or – its politics involving TTIP or US trading laws being applied to UK law.

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Guest

Yes Duncan, but the government does not prosecute traders, that responsibility lies with local authorities and Trading Standards, usually following a formal complaint from a buyer of a product. They sometimes do test purchases and then prosecute but it would seem that has not happened in respect of electrical goods supplied with two-pin plugs. You saw the evasive and naive response from Trading Standards that Patrick Steen reported below. I doubt if any buyers have complained either as consumer protection services in this country have been reduced to a shell – no doubt they have, inadvisedly perhaps, adopted a work-around with an adaptor or some other means. I suspect that Amazon’s attempted legal get-out clause has not been tested in the courts either. The Court can strike down any contract terms that offend against the wider law or are unfair. Only the Court can impose a fine or other prescribed penalty, not the government.

The material fact in this issue is not whether Amazon is or is not the seller, and the lawyers can argue over that until the cows come home, but whether Amazon is exposing the products for sale – and there is overwhelming, and I would say incontrovertible, evidence of that. I think Which? are progressing along the right lines by confronting Amazon and I hope they will have, as Malcolm has suggested, a reputable legal opinion in their hands to back them up.

Guest
Julie thoms says:
8 April 2016

I have just received an order of hair tongs from Amazon with a two pin plug on what do I do I do not want to send it back

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Guest

Julie –cut off the molded two pin plug , buy a good quality British 3 pin plug and wire up the cut ends to the new plug.. There are only two wires so there is no earth but hair tongs should be double insulated by law -ie- the actual heating element and mains cable should be protected by two layers of insulation between it and your hair.

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Guest

Hello Julie, do you have the exact model of the hair tongs? Do you have a link to the listing you ordered from Amazon?

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Guest

duncan lucas, that is a very unwise suggestion to make.

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Guest

socketman -and if you read my other posts below you will find I say what can go wrong in two conductor connected small electrical items. Many people have already done what I said in the UK because they dont want the hassle of trying to claim their money back when at the moment HMG isnt stopping this happening so 1000,s in the UK have done this, I never said it was completely safe but are you then implying that they dont stand up to regulations as far as double-insulated etc are concerned as they dispute that because they conform to another countries regulations in that issue.?

Guest
jarrod says:
2 August 2016

if something comes with two pin plug why would you replace it with a three pin? if it came with a two pin it musn’t have an earth therefore it has no earth wire to connect to the third earth pin.

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Guest

Some ‘two pin plugs’ will be the Schuko type used in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. These only have two pins and metal strips at the side for an earth connection. Whatever kind of two pin plug is supplied, it’s unsuitable for use in the UK. The exception is the two pin shaver plug.

Guest
Janice says:
13 April 2016

Today my order arrived from Amazon, Russel Hobbs Kettle with 3 pin plug & Russel Hobbs Toaster with a 2 pin plug, I was gutted. can I use a 3 pin converter plug & is it safe?

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Guest

Janice-The Russel Hobbs toaster should in that case be entirely encased in plastic and as I said above should be double insulated . Selling two pin products in the UK by import still means it must be electrically safe by law. The US has many two pin products but their electric supply is =110/115V AC(60 Hz) ,ours is 240V AC (50 Hz) twice the voltage so ,while many would survive an electric shock in the US (if in good health ) 240V running from one hand to another across your chest (heart ) if you touched a live part with one hand and an earth with the other could have drastic consequences , in this day and age , it would be a foolish company that made the product and sold it with safety concerns so Russel Hobbs should be okay . You would not of course stick your finger into the element slot either to extract broken pieces of toast when it is plugged in as then one side of the mains , if a fault occurs in the switch or it is not a double cut-off switch as there is no earth connection. The product should be okay but I will try and check Russel Hobbs toaster specs.

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I checked British and EU regulations and strictly speaking two pin electrical goods dont conform to UK specs ,but there should be an EU type electrical sticker on it meaning it can be used here -having said that there used to be a flourishing business in fake ones . As I said 25 days ago (above post ) Amazon are only acting as an intermediary/agent in the sale of the article and cannot be sued ,as their small print defines any complaints would be to the seller but Amazon should help in this but cannot be held liable (read small print for overseas “foreign ” countries electrical specifications ) .

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Hello Janice, what model of Russell Hobbs Toaster was it? Do you have a link to the listing on Amazon?

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Guest

duncan lucas, I will say it again! The plugs and Sockets regulations are very clear: “No person shall supply, offer for supply, agree to supply, expose for supply or possess for supply an electrical device unless the requirements (etc etc)” Amazon are NOT just an intermediary, they are offering and/or exposing for sale illegal goods. They are most definitely committing a criminal offence for which the penalty is up to 6 months imprisonment.

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socketman -criminal offense -then why is nobody taking them to court ??? The website I checked they absolved themselves from that responsibility. I look forward to you presenting the evidence of Amazon being mass prosecuted in the High Court for continual breaking of UK Law and by that implication UK legislation being ACTED upon.

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They are not being taken to court because A) Trading Standards departments are operated by local government, and organised on a local basis to regulate local traders, not multinationals. B. Trading Standards departments have insufficient funds to launch a prosecution against Amazon, that know that they cannot match the almost limitless legal resource that Amazon wields.

There is a cooperative scheme called the Home Authority scheme to help advise and regulate large companies (see http://www.tradingstandards.uk/advice/HomeandPrimaryAuthority.cfm). In the past year Amazon withdrew from that scheme. They believe that they are big enough that they can ignore Trading Standards.

Even the police and public prosecutors hesitate to launch prosecutions against Amazon, in the past 18 months there have been two cases of Amazon selling the an illegal weapon (that is Amazon, not a marketplace trader). So far there has been no action against Amazon, had that been a small trader on a market stall they would now be in jail. See: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/16/amazoncouk-banned-dangerous-weapons-found-sale

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Guest

Thank you for your reply socketman and yes its a good straight forward answer to my question just what I like. So as I said in another post its—politics -aka-BB ,. Its only going to get worse with TTIP nearly there and I do know a lot of the reasons why they are trying to keep it secret , the public would “have a fit ” if the secret regulations appeared on Which or in the mass public media .In the media,s case they are complicit in hiding this from the public but they are owned by BB so that makes sense . Once it becomes law Which should have a “field day ” with irate-angry- posters shouting —“its a fix ” and UK laws and democracy goes down the drain and we will be subject to US law no matter what HMG says to the contrary. The politician that said -“it can only get better ” should be fried in his own juices. ONce it is introduced this is the convoluted path when BB US wants to challenge a District Council or UK commercial law== Call for an analysis of laws impact on business– claim that new law is a trade barrier — ask for scientific evidence and then QUESTION it ! – call for another analysis of laws impact on business –overestimate the impact of a new law on jobs –argue that the measure is “burdensome ” for business –and lastly —threaten an investor law suite ( which has already taken place in Mexico and cost the Mexican government $millions to pay off BB ) Dont believe me ? remember my words a year or two from now.

Guest
James says:
4 July 2016

Cutting the plug off and fitting a UK plug is definitely advisable, rather than using an adaptor as a long term solution, especially for a heating appliance like a toaster that draws a lot of power.

A lot of people are assuming that continental plugs are not earthed. That is simply not the case!
Bear in mind if the toaster requires an earth (Class I appliance), it will have an *EARTHED* CEE 7/7 (Continental European) 16amp moulded plug. They are actually 3 ‘pin’ plugs. The earth contact isn’t a pin, rather it is the metal contact strips at the top/bottom of the plug (or if used in France/Belgium/Poland etc the hole at the front which mates with a pin on the socket – plugs typically have both).

Those plugs are perfectly safe but *only when they are used with the correct CEE 7 earthed sockets*. A lot of adaptors sold in the UK are not full CEE 7 compliant and do not connect the earth contacts, yet will accept earthed plugs. This is potentially very dangerous (especially where there’s no RCD).

Appliances that don’t have an earth wire (Class II double insulated) come with either a 16 amp “Contour” CEE 7/15 plug. These do not have an earth and have a round face that mates with a recessed European socket. You’ll typically find these on things like vacuum cleaners and hairdryers.

Small appliances (under 2.5amps) have the flat CEE 7/16 plug with insulated pins. This is similar to a UK shaver plug in looks. The reason it has insulated pins is that it is compatible with a wide range of socket types found in old buildings and in a few countries that don’t use CEE 7 (Italy, Denmark and Switzerland).

Features of CEE 7:

Finger protection : Rather than relying on plastic covers like UK plugs, the whole socket is recessed and the plug completely covers any live parts. You cannot touch the pins at all when inserting.
(The flat Euro plug uses insulated pins because its not a round body and the pins are exposed)

Earth contacts are only present when the appliance needs them. So you’ve one type of earthed socket that accepts either earthed plugs, non-earth plugs or the tiny compact Euro plug. This means you don’t have huge bulky plugs on small appliances which is a lot handier than the UK one-size-fits all be it a tumble dryer or a tiny device.

RISKS in UK or IRELAND:

CEE 7 is a very safe system when it is used with actual CEE 7 sockets. The risk is that someone uses it with an inappropriate adaptor or jams it into a UK socket directly.

*Some adaptors don’t connect the earth terminals but will accept the plug! – *There is a risk of shock if used with an earthed european appliance.
*Some adaptors are only rated 10amps – (the plugs are rated up to 16 amps)
*Adaptors shouldn’t really be used as a long term solution. They’re not intended to be.
*A lot of adaptors are quite poor at holding a heavy European transformer plug in place as they’re not actually the same as a normal continental socket.
* Where someone jams the plug straight into the socket, they’re potentially connecting it to a ring circuit directly i.e. 32amp protection only. These devices are designed to be used with a 16amp protected socket.
If there’s a short circuit, they might survive 16amps long enough to trip the breaker but they would potentially be a fire hazard if there’s fault beyond that level.

Hope that helps!

Advice : If you’ve an appliance with a cord, cut the plug off and fit a UK one. There’s really no need to use an adaptor, it’s bulky and messy long term.

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Guest

This confusing description amply demonstrates why it is dangerous to accept any electrical apparatus that does not have a plug compliant with UK standards. For safety reasons I do not endorse cutting off the bad plug and fitting a good one. The proper course of action is to return the product as not fit for purpose and as an illegal import. I see no point in having a discussion about which fits what and where.

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Guest

I agree John, but those of us who are concerned about the problem may have never bought a product fitted with the wrong plug, so have nothing to return. The best we can do is to look at what our friends and family are buying and encourage them to take action. Maybe we should trawl the Amazon website and look for obvious problems, but who would take action to make this worthwhile. As Socketman has said, Trading Standards does not seem interested.

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Guest

You can’t, of course, report this problem to Trading Standards because they won’t deal with “civil” enquiries. You have to route it through Citizens Advice who make no pretence to be other than a post box to pass on such complaints. No one gives access to accumulated complaints and no one at CAB seemingly follows up any complaints, so it all seems to disappear into a black hole. This is surely an example of where a consumer protection group like Which? should be taking an active interest and either instigating direct action or ensuring that these complaints are collated, passed to an appropriate authority and followed up to see if and how they can be effectively dealt with.

It has been a vexed topic for several years now. Is any such action likely?

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I have discussed various problems with Trading Standards. Each time, CAB made an accurate record of my concerns and passed me on to TS to discuss the matter further. TS failed to do anything. In one case I did have CAB contact me later for feedback.

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Guest

The problem with the Amazon website is that what you see is not necessarily what you get so scouting for non-compliant plugs is a wild goose chase. If I did buy something that came with the wrong plug I would certainly be prepared to take action at the first level of the law – assuming that an individual consumer is entitled to bring such an action [under the Plugs & Sockets Regulations or their superior Act] rather than an official law-enforcement agency. But to get a judgment that would have any punitive result and lasting effect would need to be at the High Court, and potentially higher if the judgment were appealed against. Unfortunately I am in no position to do that [and if I were I might have other ideas on how to spend my hard-earned]. Taking action under the Consumer Rights Act would be futile because the seller would deny a refusal to replace the product or refund the cost.

It is for those reasons that we have Trading Standards but as a combination of local authority services it is completely inadequate to deal with global companies with the resources of Amazon. One possibility is to engage the interest of an MP [when they have a spare moment] and try to have the supply of goods with non-compliant plugs examined by the relevant Parliamentary committee with witnesses [e.g. from Amazon] called to give evidence. Company bosses don’t like being skewered by Parliamentary committees but it is something they can hardly avoid if summoned.

I suggest that some of us write to the new PM-elect and urge them to re-establish consumer affairs as an effective central government function with powers of prosecution in strategic cross-boundary cases [or at least to fund the relevant ‘home authority’ if they are in a position to take action – the Department for Education funded the Isle of Wight Council in taking higher level legal action against a parent who withdrew his child from school for a holiday so it can be done if the will is there].

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Guest

This 2 pin topic rumbles on without any action, apparently, in the offing. It seems to me that if a UK customer buys an electrical product from a UK supplier (and I include Amazon UK specifically), then that product should not require any modification to be used. The Consumer Rights Act requires a product to be “fit for purpose”. Having a 2 pin plug is clearly not – the product cannot be used in most UK households. The customer should not have to fit a 3 pin plug, (even if they were competent to do so) nor pay someone else to do it, nor should they have to buy an adaptor.

Unless I have missed something, why does Which? not tackle this?

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Guest

Your right malcolm the problem with the two pin plugs is that some can be fitted the wrong way round and make the live connection at a point more liable to electrical shock.In the US the two pins are flat but one pin is a different breadth so cannot be turned around so complying with US safety regulations . What a user in the UK can do is buy a RCD adapter just in case of electrical shock ,but that costs money , the actual cut-off switch is two pin contact but being capable of bending in rough usage one side could be permanently connected to the live side of the mains . Several electrical safety websites say ,in the UK its small electrical goods that cause the most trouble.

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People do not want to have ugly adaptors sticking out of their kitchen wall sockets, and more seriously, so far as I am aware, none of the adaptors sold in shops are entirely compliant. Most, if not all, are manufactured elsewhere and often have weak electrical contact on one or both sides of the adaptor. Given that a toaster might draw up to 2,000 Watts there are serious safety implications in a kitchen environment. One could use a fully-enclosing adaptor [not easily obtained] into which the two-pin plug inserts but that would be even more ugly and it is not an appropriate solution for an appliance that gets moved around or is not permanently plugged into a socket.

I would recommend the return of the toaster to the retailer citing the Consumer Rights Act that Malcolm referred to above. The offer of an adaptor should be refused. Professional refitting of the plug with a UK three-pin plug would be acceptable, but ideally a full refund should be sought. Although toasters are one of the most widely available small appliances sold in ordinary shops, if it was bought as part of a set with a matching kettle it could be difficult to source a matching replacement – it will depend on how ‘exclusive’ the set was, how widely it is stocked, and whether the toaster is available separately.

Janice hasn’t said whether the toaster was bought direct from Amazon or through the Amazon Marketplace, but it really is high time that Amazon’s continued marketing in the UK of products that do not conform to UK standards was brought to an end. In the case of purchases through their ‘market place’, the company attempts through its small print to distance itself from liability by claiming that it is only a market place with independent traders under its roof. Any trader taking a pitch on Amazon’s market place has to accept terms and conditions that it will comply with the relevant law and Amazon is responsible for enforcing that. Neglect to do so, especially in matters of electrical safety, must implicate Amazon. So long as this is never tested in the courts Amazon gets away with it. In any case, Amazon is not just a market place – it hosts other traders’ marketing in a style consistent with its own, it offers traders the ‘shelter’ of the Amazon commercial umbrella with unrivalled access to the market, it entices customers with an implied degree of protection through its ‘covenant’ as an honest and reliable supplier, and it does nothing overt to dispel the impression that it stands behind its traders and their products in the event of a problem. It also promotes the products, processes the orders, provides payment facilities, and deals with feedback and reviews. The only things it doesn’t do when you buy through the Amazon market place rather than from Amazon directly [and how many appreciate the difference?] are wrap, pack and despatch the goods. No other market place that I am aware of has such a deep involvement in the selling process.

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Guest

Well the government agrees (government website) under the consumer rights bill and a spokesman who is a university degree electrical engineer advising them says a “certain major international marketplace company ” who has UK depots has been warned about selling goods with US/Euro two pin plugs on them and quote- up until now they have just ignored the warnings and continue to sell those electrical goods in the UK -end quote-. NOWHERE can I find HMG actually saying –enough already and STOPPING them.

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This is not just a consumer rights issue, it is a case of Amazon committing a criminal offence, punishable by up 6 months imprisonment, every time that facilitate the supply of an appliance fitted with a two pin plug (unless that appliance is toothbrush, shaver or similar).

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” “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.”

Perhaps Which? can ask Amazon the detail of selling goods not fit for purpose, and the action they have taken against these firms. I suspect your posters will be happy to provide the details of the firms concerned. I realise it is an effort but Amazon seem to be having a laugh at all the consumer requirements in the UK.

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Any judge considering Amazon’s argument that it has no liability for the conduct of its market-place sellers would find Amazon’s use of the phrase “our customers” to be a shot in the foot.

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@patrick, Are there enough complaints in the conversations about two-pin plugs to warrant concern that non-compliant products are being supplied in the UK? In particular from Amazon. Have Which? looked into this and, if so, are they likely to take any action? CRA seems to be one way to point out that the products are defective as they are not “fit for purpose”?

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Hello all, I can see that this is still going on and we have been looking into it behind the scenes. I would love help in getting links direct to Amazon products that are being sold with two-pin plugs, as you can see by my replies to comments above. This will really help with us going back to Amazon for a third time with further evidence.

We have also been in touch with Trading Standards to see if this problem is on their radar. Here’s what we heard:

1. How many reports/ complaints have you have had (and the time-frame in which you have received them) about two-pin plugs and are there are any particular retailers or types of product that frequently recur?

From my experience this issue seems to be quite random, usually occurring s a result of a changeover of plug type on the production line with two pins plugs being mistakenly shipped to the UK. Items for use in the bathroom (shavers/ electric toothbrushes/ waterpicks etc) are permitted to have a two pin plug because they do not require earthing as the supply is safety isolated and only 115V – this reduces the risk of electrocution when using in a wet environment to a tolerable level.

2. Secondly, can you tell me whether products are ever recalled on the basis of being supplied only with two-pin plugs (i.e. not being usable, without an adapter, in the UK) and what enforcement action there is to encourage retailers not to sell products without UK compliant plugs?

I am not aware of a product ever being recalled because it was supplied with a two pin plug but had no other non-compliances. The market surveillance authority has the option of ordering a notice to warn, notice to mark, suspend, withdrawal or recall on the basis of the risk presented by the product. A two pin plug cannot be plugged into the UK mains and therefore the risk presented by this fault alone is relatively low level, and the corrective action would generally be the supply of new leads (where they are detachable) or non-removable conversion plugs for those products where the lead is integral, to those consumers affected by the mistake.

If a product is purchased from a vendor in another EU country the plug will usually be a two pin Europlug, but this is obviously permissible because this is the type of plug required in the market it was supplied in.

As a way forward, any product links on Amazon would be very gratefully received so we can move this up the agenda at Amazon. I have some already, but the more, the better. Thank you for your patience and continued diligence in commenting on this issue.

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Guest

Not at all happy with that legal argument Patrick sounds like a “cop out ” .

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Guest

Supplying conversion plugs is not acceptable. They have to be fitted or people will find a way of sticking the two pin plug into a 13 amp socket. I have seen overseas students do this and I very much doubt that they appreciate the explanation of the danger. Let’s not compromise safety just to promote international trade.

Please can we now have some expert input on this topic.

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Apart from the risk posed by misuse as wavechange points out (students should know better, though – perhaps a sign of declining standards?), the Consumer Rights Act requires a product to be “fit for purpose” as I posted earlier. Having a 2 pin plug is clearly not – the product cannot be used in most UK households. It seems to me this is an adequate reason to contest sales (apart, of course, for the products mentioned and ones purchases directly from overseas). Should it not be approached on this basis?

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Guest

Malcolm, , Agreed
If it is a requirement as it is to have your house/business wired with three pin sockets there should not be 2 pin conversions in use everywhere
I do understand the tourist goings on. . .We all have travel converters but this is not travel this is items being sold for full time use
I ordered two AA/AAA chargers and one came with a proper 3 pin plug and the other with an adaptor and it is one of the worst type as a mention below
I am not “an expert” but i do my way around electricals and these adaptors are no advisable items

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Guest

I’m sorry if this wasn’t made clear before, but yes, if the product is not fit for purpose or not as described then you can get a refund or replacement under the Consumer Rights Act. Guide here on our newly updated Consumer Rights site: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/consumer-rights-act

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“Items for use in the bathroom (shavers/ electric toothbrushes/ waterpicks etc) are permitted to have a two pin plug because they do not require earthing as the supply is safety isolated and only 115V – this reduces the risk of electrocution when using in a wet environment to a tolerable level.”

Clearly someone talking through their hat there. Most UK electric toothbrushes can be recharged on a normal 240V socket via a “shaver adaptor”.

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Guest

Derek SMPS -switched mode power supplies inside modern small electrical equipment are designed to run on voltages from 90 volts up to 230/240 volts AC they automatically adjust to the current needed to operate the device . So in that respect you are right Derek but using the first paragraph you quote as an excuse to get away with imported items that are two pin wouldnt stand up in court (if they ever took them to court which probably will never happen ) But I see you are using it as an example.

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When I buy a product from Amazon, whether it is direct or through a Marketplace vendor, my contract is with Amazon. I pay them directly and they pass on some amount to the Marketplace vendor if it is appropriate. Therefore they are responsible for supplying or causing to be supplied any appliances sold through amazon.co.uk website to UK customers.
Appliances supplied in the UK must be supplied with plugs meeting BS1363 or one of the approved variants or small appliances such as shavers or toothbrushes BS 4573 or Europlug (BS EN 50075). The various Europlug standards agree on two round pins measuring 4.8 by
19 mm (0.189 by 0.748 in), spaced 19 mm (0.748 in) apart. The BS 4573 UK shaver has 0.2 in (5.08 mm) diameter pins 0.625 in (15.88 mm) long and 0.656 in (16.66 mm) apart.
It is required of Trading Standards to ensure that electrical goods are supplied that meet those regulations.
I do not see any ambiguity in the law or any way that Amazon should be allowed to evade those regulations.

Also the response from TS is incorrect in that all shaver sockets in the UK supply 230v and optionally 115v.

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Guest

Thats not how Amazon see it greytech and its in their conditions of service in that they act only as an agent in any Marketplace transaction and that the contract is between the buyer and the seller not with Amazon who only provide ,shall we say, a “market stall ” as in a covered market in which stalls are let out to sellers who control their own sales between them and the buyer . If you went into any covered market in the UK in which there were many stalls and you had a problem with the goods would you get a lawyer and sue the market owners and not the seller ?

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If you pay Amazon for the goods then I wonder if that affects the legal situation? In a “physical” matket you pay the stallholder direct.

Amazon cannot ignore its legal obligations by dosclaiming them in its conditions of sale.

I don’t know if Which? have given a real legal opinion on this. It may be necessary to seek a specialist lawyer’s view but as it is important to many Which? members then it would be (our) money well spent, wouldn’t it? Nice to get the legal situation cleared up once and for all – for Amazon selling an “incorrect” product directly, and through Amazon’s market place when you pay Amazon.

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Yes malcolm ,I too would like to get a “steel clad ” ruling on this from Which , I know the English Laws of Contract but I would like Which,s legal dept. to give a ruling here thereby making a legal point that could be brought up in a High Court dispute . As I have said before we are also talking politics and International “agreements ” or should I say those about to take place ? Its a big decision for Which in several directions.

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This is a safety issue and it’s high time we had some information about the legal situation. It is a safety issue and Which? published this Conversation.

I have had two cases (not involving products with two-pin plugs) where Amazon have failed to support me when their Marketplace traders have declined to comply with my requests.

Having discussed Amazon with many people over the past couple of years it is generally believed that Amazon will provide support if there is a problem with a Marketplace trader. Worryingly, there are people that assume that they are buying from Amazon and don’t appreciate that many of the items on the website are not sold by Amazon.

Amazon needs to take responsibility for what is on its website and if the law says otherwise then we need legislation to bring this about. As Socketman has pointed out on various occasions it is possible to buy illegal and dangerous products.

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I endorse what Malcolm is saying. Amazon can disclaim their liability until they are blue in the tooth and they will no doubt have a Counsel’s Opinion to support their position. It really is high time that Which? obtained Counsel’s Opinion on this issue and then took a case to court. Until the Court declares the legal position, and if necessary it might have to go all the way up to the Supreme Court, Amazon will get away with its denial of liability. Amazon exposes the goods for sale, it markets and merchandises them, it takes the payment and it commits the supplier to delivery, it updates the customer on delivery forecasts, and it invites product reviews. The only function of retailing that it does not perform is holding the stock in its own premises – but plenty of traders, especially with large or speciality products, do that as well. If I buy a ladder from Screwfix they tell me it will be supplied direct from the manufacturer but they nevertheless take full responsibility for the sale.

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greytech, Two things, I agree that the contract is with Amazon, but what matters in the case of electrical appliances is the Plugs and Sockets Regulations, and they are quite specific: “no person shall supply, offer for supply, agree to supply, expose for supply or possess for supply any appliance unless that appliance is correctly fitted with a standard plug “, there can be no possible doubt that in listing the product, Amazon is exposing it for supply, therefore if the product is not fitted with a standard plug, Amazon is committing a criminal offence.

With regard to the Europlug (a low power 2.5A plug), it is actually specified as having 4mm diameter pins, and the pins are spaced between 18mm and 19.2mm in the plane of the engagement face, and 17mm to 18mm at the ends of the pins. In other words, the pins are slightly convergent as you approach the ends of the pins. Because the plug is designed as a compromise fit into sockets which are intended to accept pins between 4mm diameter and 4.8mm diameter, the pins are somewhat resilient so that they exert some sideways pressure to improve the contact in sockets intended for the larger pins, such as the 4.8mm pins of the German and French 16A plugs.

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I dont think I have entered into this as yet
I have nothing a two pin plug on double insulated items which today most
However the adaptors are a disaster. . They almost allow my fingers to the live metal inside and the ones that are made to fit everything are by far the worst
No problems for children to get their fingers into

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Let us remember that it is not legal to supply an appliance with any sort or adaptor, only with a conversion plug which cannot be removed except by use of a tool.

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Here is an interesting one:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/filuse-PROFESSIONAL-TURBO-Italian-Dryer/dp/B00C9WJJEU/
At first sight it appears to be OK: “Supplied with UK 3-Pin Snap on Travel Plug (with Euro 2-Pin Plug).” Well, if it really was a “travel plug” t would not be, but the illustration does show what appears to be a Europlug with a BS 1363-5 conversion plug. HOWEVER! It is also described as being “1500 watts of power” and then “229/240v 50Hz – 1800w”. Now whichever it is, that is between 6 amps and 7 amps of current, and the Europlug maximum current is 2.5 amps! So, there is something seriously wrong somewhere, worth a test purchase by Which?

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This hairdryer is currently being supplied by a company based in Sheffield, so there is no complication of ordering goods from a foreign company. Maybe they should be instructed to recall the dryers they have sold.

Quite apart from the issue of apparently using a converter plug, I do not understand why any manufacturer would put a Europlug rated at 2.5 amps on a 1.8 kW hairdryer.

While we are discussing converter plugs, I wonder why these are often sold with a 5 amp fuse for use with a Europlug rated at 2.5 amps. 🙁

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Filuse appears to be a “trade name ” in name only NOT a recognised Italian company as far as the Italian Chamber of Commerce are concerned . It is not in any Italian business directory website nor the equivalent EU one . You will notice italics on the website so this makes it harder to check if it is REALLY made in Italy or ,like many products “”made “” in the EU/UK they are ASSEMBLED from Chinese parts (like LED light bulbs ) . Secondly saying in an advert that the wattage of an electrical piece of equipment is Zillions of watts is a total CON which I thought was stamped out in the 70,s when audio power amps had ridiculous wattages ascribed to them . There is only ONE way of determining the REAL life wattage and that is to test from its RMS value . Thats what I did when building and testing audio power amps, using a world standard input value with a scope – 8 OHM resistance (large enough NOT to be influenced by heat changes to the value of the resistance wire ) and a RMS reading meter ,of which I have several .The continuous output is therefore directly read on the RMS reading meter display . If that was not enough ,using an industrial multi-meter used by the US and UK governments to test their own equipment giving values down to micro ohms . micro volts AC/DC (up to 8 digit resolution ) -Hewlet- Packard make I also checked the AC voltage ,using in both cases a 1 Khz sine wave of distortion value of -0.001 % THD . So all this 1000,s of watts business is complete Bull. Its just rip-off advertising forget peak values etc its CONTINUOUS values that count .

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Sorry Patrick, I posted this comment on the wrong Convo (Fraud and Cyber Crime).

As this two-pin plug topic seemed to have faded away in the Convos I asked Which? last week, through the Members Forum, whether they were intending to tackle it. It has been referred to the research Team to see “if this is something we can look at in the future”.
I hope the Research Team reads these Convos, because it seems to me there are a number of issues raised that should be looked at now, rather than in the future.

Part of Patrick’s positive response was
“Hi Malcolm, it’s something we have been looking at with Research and other teams at Which?. We have been in contact with Amazon to challenge them on this twice, and I have shared Amazon’s comments and promises with you, including how they are removing items from their Marketplace that feature two-pin plugs and how consumers can get a full refund. I’m sure you can understand, It’s especially tricky when it’s sellers on Amazon’s Marketplace and not Amazon themselves.” His full reply is under the above Convo.

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Happy to share my comment again here:

Hi Malcolm, it’s something we have been looking at with Research and other teams at Which?. We have been in contact with Amazon to challenge them on this twice, and I have shared Amazon’s comments and promises with you, including how they are removing items from their Marketplace that feature two-pin plugs and how consumers can get a full refund. I’m sure you can understand, It’s especially tricky when it’s sellers on Amazon’s Marketplace and not Amazon themselves.

We have also been in touch with other online retailers, and Trading Standards. I know there are lots of pages of comments, so you may not have seen all of my replies where I have shared the responses we have received over the years.

I understand that what we hear from companies may not match their actions, which is why we challenged Amazon on it for a second time. However, if the evidence keeps growing and we have links to specific products and who is selling them on the Marketplace, we will have evidence to fully challenge Amazon again.

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Thanks Patrick. In view of comments above, have Which? taken legal opinion on the status of both Amazon (“direct”) and its Marketplace operation as regards responsibility for the supply of illegal or unfit products? Not just Amazon of course but any UK trader supplying the wrong plug on an appliance.

Guest
Robert says:
23 April 2016

I ordered an HDMI Switch from Amazon which arrived last week with a two pin PSU. I spoke to Amazon and was assured this would be replaced with a UK PSU. This was delivered today and is identical to the previous item with a Europen two pin PSU.

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Robert-If you ordered it directly from Amazon then so much for the difference in “Market Place ” (by sellers ) and those that say amazon Direct is “different ” in terms of applying UK law ,regardless of what they have read Amazon dont think cameron is up to challenging American commercial law which is being applied to Britain regardless of the company having a warehouse here and therefore having to conform to UK Law . This is just a foretaste of things to come in TTIP. And Obommer is holding camerons hand up his back by categorically stating= vote Brexit ? , then the so called “special relationship ” is only special when its in American BB interests as if we vote out then no TTIP and Britain will be in the same boat as China when it comes to dealing with US trade. This has split me in two ,not often done, I am for staying in and signed government petitions to that effect but I am anti-TTIP ,this requires some deeper strategic thinking.

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@patrick – I had little support from Amazon when I ordered an adapter from an Amazon Marketplace trader, even when they supplied a different product from what was on their website. Things may have changed since then, but I would like to see some evidence that Amazon will take responsibility for goods sold by Marketplace traders. Has anyone checked if they will replace goods that arrive with the wrong plug?

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The argument used that Amazon is not the seller, and therefore has no responsibility, might be relevant to its marketplace sellers. However I wonder by making a charge for these sellers to use its facilities does give it a responsibility for what is sold? Is their sound legal advice on this?

However, Amazon do directly sell products themselves. (I assume also that if it comes from their distribution centres, packed by them and you pay them that is classed as being a seller). Without trawling back through comments, is it the case that they have supplied no products with two pin plugs (other than legal products or fitted with a compliant permanent converter plug)?

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On an almost totally unrelated topic, a number of folk have been referring to the US proclivity for 115V and our bathroom adaptors for the same and describing it as ‘safer’ because the voltage is lower. But I don’t believe that’s true, especially as I’ve had some annoying little shocks of 50 – 60,000V and am none the worse for the experience.

The voltage is only important with regard to overcoming the body’s electrical resistance. The crucial factors behind the causes of fibrillation (which causes most deaths) are current (amps) and frequency (Hz). Surprisingly, it only takes 3mA (three thousandths of an amp) to stop the heart applied for 3 seconds with a 60Hz frequency and not that much more with DC, so a simple AA battery applied directly to the heart muscles could cause fibrillation. What stops it killing us every day is a combination of things, including our natural resistance to electrical current, the low amperage (quantity of electricity) and the lack of alternation.

Some research suggests that our mains frequency of 60Hz is significantly more dangerous than the US’s 50Hz but I think it’s important to say that electrocution is by no means a simple subject and the risks to a human can not easily or safely be quantified to any single element of the electrical system. Suffice to say that all electricity is potentially dangerous and what matters is educated use and care, rather than voltage figures, which can be very misleading

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Other than you having the AC frequency of the UK and US the wrong way round ,I entirely agree with what you have said Ian , “its the amps that kill ” . I have have electric shocks from 90 V AC/DC at high current to 20,000 volts at microamps , I am only alive due to my thick dry skin (high resistance and a very good heart. Shaver 115V AC points are usually isolated from the mains by a transformer therefore the full mains current isnt transferred to you, using optical transfer isnt my idea of good isolation. Deaths have occurred in the US by having mains points near outdoor swimming pools but you have better survival rate in the US due to lower voltage .

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I dont like those shaver 110v thingys any road
The fact they are in a bathroom they have a transformer to reduce voltage is not much use if it’s is an isolation transformer as this can isolate an upstream an RCD causing it to give you little or less protection
The power required to drive a shaver is more than enough to kill you if you are well connected to it and/or ground. . .They are relying on you not being too well earthed
Theory would be that if you are connected to one conductor you’ll be getting 55v

Bear in mind too that as everything gets very wet say from an badly directed shower or water leak the 240v is at the terminals right on the rear of the unit just the same as a socket and could just a readily leak

As to volts and amps??
Amps are not supplied down the wire
Volts are supplied down the wire
it takes something to cause resistance before amps happen

Stick welders are low voltage AC or DC but mostly AC
If they tickle you which it should not do or at least not to an alarming state the transformer has a leak and if there is a notable trickle of higher volts coming through it that should not be there. . .Bin it. . The leak will never get better by itself
A good one wont shock you even if you have your two hands on the two conductors
Thats why welders seldom get shocked, , They are usually used to tickles though

If I remember correctly the change or point of voltage for the purpose of safety is 50v
50v can be nearer to 60v in a 48v battery system..
Although deemed as “safer” I have had many tickles from 48v battery systems but without harm. . Even big several 1000ah systems
DC is by far much worse than AC in my experience. . . . but AC will be felt at much lower voltages initially than DC
300vdc is as close to heaven is it gets let me tell you even if your hands are as dry as a bone. . . It’ll get onto/into you .. . .
Worse!! A 6800uF capacitor or several will send you home for the day or maybe casualty if not worse. . . You’ll think your shot in the arm and I mean that literally. .

A spark ignition engine has pretty high voltage going to the spark plugs but I dont know anyone killed by it. . . .It’ll give you quite a shaking unless you are pretty determined

Either 120v or 240v will kill you provided you get reasonably well connected to it
There is an argument for and against 240 via two 120 legs and 240 with a leg tied to ground as we have
Two 120v legs as used not so far away have the advantage of being 120v between either and ground where most shock situations occur apparently but it’s still 240v between the two conductors should you stick your fingers in the bulb holders two posts
240v with one leg ground is usually fine if you happen to touch the neutral although an RCD can be tripped with barely a feel of a shock by touching the neutral. . . I’ve been surprised just how little it takes on neutral to set off a 30ma trip
An analog meter can set of an RCD if used between earth and live and even neutral provided the right load conditions are happening with other loads of the same lines
If you touch the live of 240 whether you are grounded or in connection with the neutral you’ll get 240v. . .
Like the two 120v legs live to neutral is about as bad as it gets but usually for the foolish they have touched both conductors with the one finger or one hand and whilst the finger will get a burn most of the shock is between you and ground and we are likely to be wearing shoes and not standing in a river (I think?)

Apart from the spark ignition which is various methods of capacitor discharge operating at various speeds most electricity is constant supply and you are the potential

It doesnt take the grid to kill you. . .A small generator will be just as efficient at sending you on your way as it doesnt need much power to kill you just as long as you get well connected
Good rubber shoe’s and most of us wear those today help immensely

Where I am going with this is
With voltages below 50v one is not in much danger because our bodies are not brilliant conductors . . .Hence a 12v or 24v vehicle system will barely tickle you and I’ve been around them most of my life
Yes you can get a tiny shock connecting a car battery but that’s a one off of charging everything up that has capacitance and wont happen constantly or repeatedly unless you disconnect and wait a time until the charge is lost. . .
Once the spark has jumped which is what shocked you and by the jump transformed itself into something you’d feel it all is done and dusted

With lower voltages your body does not conduct well and does not have to conduct any notable amps. . . Thats why you’ll see mechanics and auto sparks poking probes at wires every which way. . .
They are not afraid being shocked because they wont be shocked or at least not enough to normaly feel or be be harmed by
Yes there is electric there but the voltage is not high enough
One can set ones hands on the posts of a 12v battery and you’ll not be sent flying
A 9v PP3 battery on ones tongue is noticeable but not mind blowing as such but unless your going to put electrodes in some peculiar places that’s as bad as low voltage has got for me anyhow
Yes low voltage could kill you. . cause heart problems but you’d need to be connected in wet internal parts. . .I am not going there

As the voltages go up the danger increases so dont be thinking that it requires amps to kill you
There is no measurable amps in any conductor or electricity until the load is added/connected
At low volts you are not really a load
At higher volts you quickly become a load and the higher, , the bigger the problem because the higher the voltage the more the body will conduct. . .
It is you yourself that is causing the amps
Thats why the ignition leads scare so many people because its massive voltage but that shock is shocking and you can feel the frequency of the discharge pulse but it is not constant and is off much more than it is on so there is a kinda tolerance level for different people or maybe its down to how well earthed you are and how probably how scared you are of it
If I was trying to find why something was off a cylinder and I thought the spark to that cylinder was missing I would stick my finger in the lead end. . . . .I could hear the clicks and feel the clicks

This high voltage thing is why three phase is much more dangerous and if a kitchen has 3 phase the phases have to be separated by predetermined distances to avoid the potential of 380/415vac between phases
In other words the sockets are wired phase to neutral which is still 240vac but there is potential for two phases at 380/415vac so the phases are kept appart by a distance deemed very unlikely to be bridged by a person. . .
Its usually grid or generator in origin but the additional voltage is much more severe hence the extra regulations in connection with it
Still one of the phases to ground is still only 240v odd but between phases is getting there for our limitations
Lets say for the sake of argument you, ,your body will conduct 10a at 240v which is 2400w. .
Now its only 10a because we are not good conductors.
That will rise to a minimum of 6600w at 400v. . . .Get the picture. . . .It is probably much worse even than that because I just used a rule of thumb based on copper as a conductor and we are not copper and behave exponentially worse for ourselves as the voltage rises
Even with a 3ph 30ma RCD as protection the effect of being between phases is not good
This is why there are 5ma RCDs in places like hospitals just in case a piece of machinery goes wrong because some of the machine are connected to you very directly

There are other countries with much better safety regs than ours and some must have 5ma protection on any receptacle that a person may be working with. . . .It makes a rather a lot of RCDs because 5ma is so little taht precious little leak on tow or three machine will set it off of there is usually many 5ma RCDs used
I use 10ma RCDs regularly
Our new cabins are 30ma lighting circuits and 10ma sockets etc. . .My dads cabin has 7 RCDs
The larger cabin has 11 RCDs. . . .They need that to avoid unwanted tripping

Then if and I am sure you have heard of digger or machinery operators getting killed by power lines the power they face is a multitude more than we see in any normal situation
If you hit a power line and you are fine you are instructed to touch nothing. . . Dont move and for dear sake dont think you can jump out of the machine because many have been killed at such attempts.. . 27kv is well capable of jumping especially is the humidity is high or dear forbid its raining near as far as the digger driver can
The electricity is travelling over the outside of the machine. . . You are in the machine and you are not a conductor unless per chance there is a slight resistance somewhere in the machine and you just might could touch two parts one each side of the resistance. . .bang
Even the slightest poor conductance in a part of the machine could mean a basic mains high voltage line could give you 100s or even 1000s and if a big line 10s of 1000s of volts across a set of levers or ignition switch. . . .Hence touch nothing

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300 volts Dee ? I have spent 60 years repairing valve wirelesses from 300v DC to 500v DC at 150Ma had so many shocks that we are talking 1000,s using usually 32mfd capacitors for smoothing and reservoir in the power supply . Lost count of the EHT shocks I got from valve TV,s but as they were very low current it was only like your spark plug shock . Deadly was the old pentode valve in the timebase (usually enclosed in aluminum ) the cap at the top(anode ) had 800 volts DC at a high current (for a TV ) now that could kill as the electricity clung to you being DC , touched one once ,that was enough took days to get over it. Had 240V mains across my arm and hand at times one time holding an earth point in the other hand , the pain was tremendous my arm froze ,lost feeling in the nerves then the pain was like being hit with a sledgehammer it didnt go away for days , it certainly woke me up. You cant remove current from the equation of electricity voltage is just the pressure but current is the force due to the resistance value – I=E/R (or=I=V/R-same difference ) they are all interrelated ,its the current in an arc welder that deposits the melted rod contents onto the steel/iron -ie- 100,s of amps in some cases of factory welders the voltage is comparatively low . Yes I shouldn’t be alive but I wasnt meant to die early.

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Dont worry Duncan I wasnt trying to teach a fish to swim
I would every confidence in you around electrical’s
I was simply laying out a few things to read. . .Yes a small battery could kill you if it were at your heart but for the most part batteries are no danger just as things like spark ignition being more scary than fatal for most healthy folk. . ..Most older mechanics will know all about that. . .It does not grab you and hold you as a mains or high voltage DC supply would do by contracting your muscles. . ..
Thats the type of thing that gives one the 30,000v or more today shock but it’s not 30,000v of constant electricity .. .It’s a discharge
If you get hooked up to a constant 30,000v of anything your most likely on the wrong side of a timeline
I would also have known you’d have a few shocks. . . Not advisable but working around things that charge up the inevitable usually happens and I know you’ve worked at oldie stuff with loads of electricly wound up components
Start and run caps are an annoying reality to be avoided at all costs
I remember having a very bad mains supply inn my first rented workshop when I was much younger and a big Newman 4hp motor on a compressor that took mega amps to start and the start cap would regularly pop when there was not enough grid to get her going which was typically morn and eve
I kept spares sitting on top of the wallplate and I reached up one day to get one and it had partly charged itself. . .That was my first encounter with a “bigger” capacitor
The smoothing caps in our controllers are 6800mfd 450vdc varying from one to 3 in parallel according to purpose
Charge them up and crack them off and the doggies are doing Scooby Doo spinning across the yard. . . .I dont think doggies ever actually sleep they are so quick off the mark
The crack is fine if you get to hear it, , its when the shock takes over from the noise is the problem I dont like. . . .Happened twice. . . Both times on site and I wasnt for much after that
Maybe thats why my head is away!!!!!!
Happened my son once in the electronics dept when his boss had set a charged cap down without discharging it and he was squealing from the shock
One can never be careful enough but it is an invisible force whether it be that type of leccy or mains type. . .It is to be avoided
That is probably why those with some wit are writing on here about these damned two pin adaptors. . . .I have one beside me here and it is so open a child would have no problem sticking his fingers into any one of the contacts . . .A child would not even have to try to get their finger in . . . It seems to be a 3 pin UK plug to just about anything it’s got so many part shapes moulded in it. . . . If I could attach a photo I would. . . Perhaps Patrick would refresh me with an email address and make a judgement if this is the types in question of better/worse. . .I think it’s awfully dangerous
If you already have one of these two pin plugs that require such a contraption then dont use the contraption. . . .Either fit or have fitted a proper UK spec 3 pin plug

This bring me to another part of my earlier post
I made mention of RCDs as I have done several times yet no one takes it up
Yes there are pre RCD earth protection but it is so dire as to be no use in my eyes
Why are we making such a fuss and rightfully so about two pin adaptors when the UK has 1000s of houses with no modern or proper earth leakage protection
Even the UKs requirement of 30ma is by todays standards pretty basic and the dunt from the live via a 30ma will still scare a person very badly as most people dont actually know about “the shock” even that short less than half a second dunt
In these old systems one can get hold of the live and it wont let go so why do we still have them??
Any comments

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In the case of the toaster reported by Janice above, she bought two Russell Hobbs appliances together – a kettle that came with a standard UK 3-pin plug and a toaster that was fitted with a 2-pin plug. We do not know whether they were a ‘set’, nor whether they came from a seller in Amazon’s market place or direct from Amazon as the retailer. The point is that the toaster was illegal; if they were sold a s a set then the whole set can be rejected as not fit for purpose. We do not know the Wattage of the toaster but it could be up to 2,000 W which would require a current of over 8 Amps – far higher than the maximum permitted load [2.5 A] on a Europlug so not safe even if it was encased in a converter plug. The 2-pin plug on the toaster (a) might have been higher-rated, 10 Amps say, (b) it might in fact have an earth conductor [it might not be immediately obvious to someone unfamiliar with these things], and (c) it might be designed to fit a compatible socket in one particular orientation; we just do not know from the information available, so speculating on ways to operate the toaster is not sensible. As I said before, finding a converter plug for that is not easy and in any case is not an appropriate solution for an appliance that can be moved around and is not permanently plugged into a socket.

If you put “converter plug” into Amazon’s search facility a whole variety of devices come up, mainly temporary adaptors for use on holiday, but also some where they claim to enclose a Europlug inside a casing that is fitted with three pins presumably conforming to the UK socket aperture positions and specifications. Some claim to have been “designed to BS5733 and ASTA approved standards”; I do not know whether that is the correct standard or whether the products actually comply with it. What worries me is that in the absence of a common European two-pin plug the consumer might try to make an electrical connection that will be inherently imperfect. This is because different countries have different specifications for their plugs although they might look similar, and in many cases what to us looks like a two-pin plug might also have an earth conductor either in the form of a metallic strip on one side or an aperture within the body of the plug which makes contact with a projecting pin in the wall-socket. Getting all this right in a converter plug would, I suggest, require specialist knowledge.

Personally I think the case of Janice’s toaster would be a good one to pursue because it is a high-power kitchen appliance for use by members of the family and possibly moved around and switched on and off at the wall-plug: on several fronts, electrical safety is paramount.

Why anyone would choose to argue with Socketman in these matters amazes me.

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I agree with Duncan’s advice to cut off any nasty foreign plugs and fit proper British ones.

If cutting the cable reveals a three wire cable, then obviously you must connect all three wires properly.

However, this advice (of course) pre supposes some basic knowledge of electricity and electrical safety. Anyone who is not happy wring plugs or changing fuses should consider asking for help from a “grown-up”.

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It’s not that simple, Derek. Even in the days when fitting plugs was necessary, the job was often done poorly. The variety of designs of BS 1363 plugs did not help. Thanks to moulded plugs, many will have never even attempted to fit a plug. Thankfully most portable items use a two core cable these days, which avoids the more serious dangers.

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wavechange-Its a sad indictment of UK society that the simple electrical job of terminating a UK 3 pin plug is beyond the technical ability of a large number of the British public . less PC at schools and more technical education would make a vast difference . Its sad that the days of the great industrial exhibitions in Britain and the pride in a country that was full of people having at least some ability in engineering of any type renowned the world over as an “engineering ” country has fallen due to politics and financial greed into a servile and apologetic nation due to BB and banks. I may be “left-wing” but I do hold some right -wing views as well and one is standing up for your country and having pride in it , it just makes me very sad that this once great country has been brought down so much just to satisfy the City .

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Totally agree duncan. Wiring a plug is just one of many practical “skills” (most are common sense and basic knowledge) that we need through life to reduce our dependence upon others and making money go further. Such as cooking, using money products wisely and operating a budget, basic gardening (why buy annual and vegetable plants from garden centres?), household repairs, decorating……… Part of schooling should be teaching life skills (if enough people are around to do this 🙂 ).

More useful than media studies.

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Have a look at the videos showing how to wire a plug. I have not seen one that both illustrates good practice and explains the important points in doing what might appear to be a simple job.

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PeterB says:
22 April 2016

For those unable to wire a plug Maplin sell a “Euro 2-pin to UK 3-pin” plug for £6.49. (Code MW44X) Simply unscrew the plug, place the 2-pin plug inside and screw it shut. There is absolutely no wiring and no need to invalidate the warranty by cutting off the original 2-pin plug. You then have a fused plug on your device.
Disclaimer: I have no connection with Maplin and the plugs may well be available from other retailers.

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The Maplin product might be a conversion plug and they are indeed available from various retailers. What we don’t know in the case of Janice’s toaster is whether or not the plug on the power lead is in fact a Euro 2-pin plug. If everyone who buys an electrical appliance from Amazon or elsewhere with a plug that is not a standard UK 3-pin 13A plug on the cord carries out a conversion or adaptation [and hopefully gets it right] then the illegality of selling [or “exposing for sale”] such products in the UK will never get tackled and the retailers will get off Scot free.

A further point is that we do not know whether the “conversion plugs” sold over the counter are electrically safe and make a good electrical connexion with the inserted two-pin plug. Many of adaptors sold in the UK are of inherently poor design with ‘soft’ compatibility between different specifications of foreign plugs. Can we be sure that the imported conversion plugs are any better?

A toaster is not what I would call a portable appliance and needs a compliant plug for a UK socket.

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Very good first point John,absolutely agree , according to Maplin ,with whom I have dealt with since the early 70,s it conforms to BS5733 .On the other hand its rated for 600W how many toasters are that wattage ? ,the range is usually 800W upwards -to 1500W . While I dont doubt that Maplin with its prestige to hold up has bought from importers or direct a product that has high impact robust firm plastic I have seen 1000,s of those 2 pin Euro plugs over decades and many have low grade metallic pins badly made that need a strong clamping motion from the sockets they are inserted to. This would be okay in Euro land on the continent where there are standard wall sockets complying to the countries electrical specifications but accepting “second best ” in Britain where I have seen those 2 pin plugs arc and burn due to bad/loose connectors they are a house fire waiting to happen .Add that to the vast under spec of the connector adapter in relation to your average toaster wattage then I have to ask- have UK electrical bodies “thrown in the towel ” ?? , too scared to make this a serious challenge ? ,There are great rumblings in the electrical engineering bodies as they know all about this. While other countries specs are being imposed here -just ask yourself does the USA put up with this —-NOPE ! does Germany put up with this -NOPE .UK mug central – British human life doesnt count , I am now starting to have reservations about being pro EU. Is this a move to change our very safe 3 pin plug society ??

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Duncan, personally I don’t see any official moves to undermine the safety standards of the UK electrical regulations, even under the guise of single-market harmonisation – it’s too big a nut to crack and it is easier and safer for manufacturers to fit alternative plugs than it is to completely rewire the UK and fit new sockets everywhere. What I do think is undermining it is the readiness of companies to trade in illegal products with apparent immunity from enforcement action, and the willingness of UK consumers to put up with, and work around, such imports using adaptors, converters, and junction boxes, or anything else that comes to hand. I know it happens because I have seen examples in people’s homes.

For this problem many respondents have said [in as many words] “just chop off the 2-pin plug and fit a UK 3-pin plug instead”. Many of us can probably do that competently, but a lot of people cannot, so it is particularly bad advice to give to someone whose competence is unknown. It is not always easy for people who have done it loads of times. The configuration and form of the terminals differs widely across the different makes. Some cables are very difficult to open once cut in order to expose the conductor wires unless the correct tool is available. Some cables are sheathed in particularly stiff PVC and it is easy to cut into the strands of the conductors when removing