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A shameless plug for your two-pin plug comments

Two-pin EU plug

Two-pin plugs. Who would have thought such a topic would inspire so many comments. It seems being sent an electrical item without a UK plug turns most people off. Let’s have a look at some of your comments.

Most electricals should be delivered with a UK three-pin plug (some are exempt, like shavers and toothbrushes). The fact that some online retailers don’t do this started a lively debate.

There were loads of comments to choose from (more than 300 in fact), so I’m sorry if I’ve missed any of you out. Anyway, here’s Socketman to launch this round-up:

‘It is quite appalling that online sellers think it is OK to ignore UK law. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Trading Standards is organised on a local basis and find it difficult to tackle multi-national companies like Amazon.’

Amazon – let’s socket to them

Amazon was mentioned in a number of your comments, with third-party Amazon Marketplace sellers often posting out electricals with EU plugs. Alan bought a wireless adapter:

‘It came with a two-pin plug and extra adapter to connect up to a UK socket. Quite a cumbersome bit of kit. When I queried it with the supplier they said these were imported from Europe and they added the adapter for UK markets.’

It’s important to note that sending out an adapter isn’t good enough – any two-pin plugged appliance must be fitted with a conversion plug. Boglost bought a scanner:

‘It had a two-pin plug transformer on its cable. I didn’t realise that this type of plug was illegal in the UK and just considered it an inconvenience to use a two-pin adapter.’

Philip123 was also delivered a scanner with the wrong plug, but had a better experience:

‘I ordered a scanner in the summer and, finding it had a two-pin plug I returned it at [Amazon’s] request, for a refund. After a number of emails between us, in which they specifically claimed their stock had been checked at the warehouse and was now UK, not EU, I re-ordered. Same problem. As I really wanted the scanner I suggested they send me a £5 adapter or a credit note towards one. To my surprise they decided to give me 15% discount to keep the scanner and obtain my own adapter.’

Pulling the plug on two-pin plugs

Goodfoodie has had a bit of trouble with Argos:

‘I was bought a Kodak printer as a Christmas present, only to find the cable had a two-pin plug attached. Contacted Argos who offered to send me an adapter, which I declined stating that they had illegally supplied an item. I declined a refund as I want the item. Eventually I was put through to a supervisor and after several conversations […] they are posting me a correct cable.’

Not everyone was critical of two-pin plugged appliances. Sumbloke just fits UK plugs himself:

‘I buy most of my aquarium equipment online as there are massive savings to be had compared to buying from local aquatic dealers. Most of the equipment – heaters, filters and lighting come with two-pin plugs attached and a three-pin adapter is supplied for UK plug sockets. I just chop off the two-pin plug and install a three-pin plug. This is not an issue for me and I will certainly continue to support my favourite online dealers.’

If you, like Sumbloke, are happy to replace a two-pin plug with its three-pinned cousin, make sure you know how to change a plug safely. But, of course, you really shouldn’t have to. Have you ever ordered electrical goods online just for it to arrive with a two-pin plug?

Comments

hi all! I’ll join to plug conversation with next question: is anybode use a smart plug? Is it handy? And if so, which smart plug to buy? I found these https://www.bestadvisers.co.uk/smart-plugs I like the idea of using something remotely, but i didn’t think that humanity has invented that)))

Anon says:
9 August 2021

I have an amazon smartplug, and it’s very cool being able to tell alexa to turn on a device for you. However take in mind, this is what’s known as a IoT device (Internet of Things), and as such introduce a security risk into your network. Ensure the firmware for your device is regulary updated by the manufacturer, and that you update it using your smartphone periodically. Also consider configuring your network security appropriatly to take this risk into account, if you’re able.

One other thing, consider what you’re going to use it for. If you plan on using it for your lamps for instance, I’d recommend instead to use Smartbulbs rather than a smartplug. I would not recommend using it for anything with high electrical requirement, such as plugging a multi-socket on it, or any other use that might be considered a hazard (such as leaving a cooker on, plugged into the smartplug, so when turning it on, it flicks the cooker on. This, and other things similair to this, is a bad idea).

Smartplugs are more complex, and as such can sometimes fail, especially if they overheat (They need a little room to breath, just like powerline adapters, or wifi repeaters, since they connect to your network and need to send/receive information, and process that information). In such instances, they may fail to turn your appliance off, or on, so I advise that you maintain access to it so you can turn it off and on again in such an event by the wall socket itself. If it does it a lot in short succession, you’ll probably need to replace it as it sounds like it’s a failing adapter.

Since I’ve started using smartbulbs, I’m not actually sure what to use my smartplug on. It’s not been connected since. Mine was Amazon’s smartplug, as it seemed the best to integrate it with alexa.

Too many emails.

It’s not the two pin plug itself that’s the problem, it’s that you often get both three and two pin. I’ve got dozens spare. Is there anyone recycling them to Europe for their use? Do they get a three pin added to their two pin electricals?

stephen Powlesland says:
11 May 2021

I have just had a Coway air purifier delivered, it has a two pin plug of a kind that I have never seen before, no adapter, no information, seems imposable to contact Coway. Maybe I could bye an adapter but: is it safe, legal, would it work? I do not want to send it back (as I have very dry skin and was hoping it would help). Doesn’t anything just work any more!?

Hi Stephen, I am guessing your air purifier was delivered from abroad so may be fitted with the plug of that country or the originating country.

If so, you cannot just change the plug. It might work with a power converter, (I use a USA one) so I would advise you to take it to an electrical specialist store who will check it and sell you the correct converter.

Where did you buy it from?

HAB says:
31 May 2021

A small ray of light. Many computing devices (e.g most laptops) are supplied with an external power supply, either a ‘brick’ or a ‘wall wart’. Sensible manufacturers fit a mains socket to the brick and then supply several different power leads – the extra cost is tiny, and one product can be sold across the whole world without the need for regional variants. Similarly, many wall warts are supplied as a single box/wart with a number of clip-on adapters, one for each different type of mains connection – the adapters are very cheap but sturdy and clip firmly and securely into place, so again one box can satisfy every customer everywhere. I buy a great deal of computing equipment online for my clients and I have found that specialist suppliers are usually willing to fix the problems which occasionally arise – for example, one company keeps a store of mains leads and adaptors specifically to rectify these problems and will send them out without question and without charge.
I believe that the big chain retailers could easily do something similar, but we all have to be prepared to make them do so, using carrot, stick or both together.

I agree that these are sensible solutions. I first encountered products supplied with more than one lead about 25 years ago. We soon had a large box of unwanted leads. I have not seen many domestic products supplied with multiple leads.

I have a collection of Apple chargers with clip-on fused ‘plugs’ for UK use, and others are available for use in other countries.

I don’t like adapters and converter plugs in UK 13A sockets because, in my opinion, they do not form a good electrical contact for permanent use or are sometimes too heavy or bulky so prone to backing out and exposing the pins.

I have been thinking of getting a manufactured short extension lead with a Schuko socket on one end and a BS1363 plug on the other for occasional use when there is a non-compliant product in the house. In the first place there are very few such accessories on the market [but there are thousands of converters/adapters] and of the ones I have seen advertised I find it impossible to tell whether they will cater for continuous earthing if necessary or are made to a satisfactory quality with correctly sized conductors and sheathing.

Could anyone recommend a good source of such an article?

I could, of course, cut the socket off an existing extension lead and fit a Schuko socket if I knew where to get a good one but I prefer to get a factory-made extension lead with fully-sealed and captive cable entries and well-made terminations rather than a home-made gadget.

You would need a trailing Schuko socket, John. This provides strain relief where the cable joins the socket. Here is one possibility, sold by a retailer I trust, but it has a 10 metre cable and has two sockets: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/extension-leads-cable-reels/7056628/

I share your dislike for these converter plugs and adapters, John. Here is one from a source I trust but it has a ten metre cable and two sockets: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/extension-leads-cable-reels/7056628/ CPC is another retailer I trust but I have not seen anything suitable.

If you make your own lead you would need a TRAILING Schuko socket to provide strain relief where the cable enters the socket.

I have tried twice to post a response, John. They contained links and may have been delayed in the post. Maybe one of them will appear at some stage, otherwise I will try again later.

Third attempt and fingers crossed, John….

The best I have managed to find is this lead on the RS website: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/extension-leads-cable-reels/7056628/ Unfortunately it has a long cable and two sockets.

If you decide to make your own, look for a trailing Schuko socket which will have a cord grip.

Thanks very much, Wavechange. I think that would suit my purpose very well although the details do not say that it has a UK 13A plug on the male end [probably not]. That doesn’t matter much because I only need a cord length of about 60 cm and can keep the surplus for another use.

I don’t think any BS1363 13A plugs are made in the UK now and many of those advertised don’t look great. Luckily I have a few good British-made MK plugs in my stores and will use one of those.

If I have to cut off a male Schuko plug it will probably be un-rewireable so will have to be destroyed and disposed of properly to ensure safety.

I expect it has a Schuko plug on the end and it’s disappointing that there nothing in the description or even a photo.

Back in the 1970s MK introduced their ‘Safetyplug’, which dispensed with the need for a cord grip retained by screws. Instead, the cable was held in place by two pieces of stiff plastic. Unfortunately it was difficult to push thicker cables into place and it was common to see the coloured wires exposed and not retained. (Modern cables are thinner.) In other ways MK branded products are generally very good and I would be interested to see their current design for plugs.

Markw says:
25 June 2021

Hi,

Can someone help me with this one, got a CCTV camera and it has an external box for power, its a box with the low voltage lead coming out one side and the 240v cable coming out the other with a UK plug on it.

Now the plug is one of these REALLY SMALL plugs, I can barely grip it without wrapping my fingers right around it meaning touching the pins, it does have some insulation on the top of the pins, it has no fuse.

As far as I was aware these plugs are illegal due to their size ?, is this right ?, I am actually a qualified pat tester and I would usually fail any of these small plugs and replace them with a standard sized UK plug but just wanted to check as its really hard find the actual rules on plugs, I know its must be in the all the bumf somewhere but I just can find it.

It was a purchase from Amazon, well fulfilled by them but they were made aware back in March at least of the issue as someone else mentioned it in a review.

Thanks

Hi Mark – You have said that the mains cable has a standard UK plug, so I don’t understand the purpose of the small plugs unless they are on the low voltage lead. Can you please give us some more information? A a link that shows the product you have purchased would be useful.

I suspect Markw means that the 3-pin UK plug is rather shallow in height, making it difficult to grip. I have a couple of those and find them difficult to extract.
I’ve only had a quick look at BS1363 (2018) and it gives the maximum height of the plug housing as 25mm. There may be information on grip, for example, elsewhere.

That would make sense, but it the mains plug has no fuse, as Mark has said, it clearly does not comply with the relevant standard and could cause a fire. I have given an example of an unfused plug before, in another Conversation about incorrect mains plugs: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/two-pin-plugs-eu-uk-plug-amazon-pixmania/#comment-1612575

Which? has found examples of online marketplaces including Amazon and eBay setting dangerous electrical and other products. At present, these organisations have no legal liability for what their traders sell.

I suggest that Mark contacts Citizens Advice and the case should be referred to Trading Standards. It would also be worth notifying Amazon because they should promptly remove the product from sale and may take action against the trader.

Hi all, see also:-http://bs1363.fatallyflawed.org.uk/

Quite right, wavechange, I had focused on the size rather than the lack of fuse. The product is thus illegal to sell in the UK. It was presumably a market place product for which Amazon take no formal responsibility. I hope that will change to prevent harm to consumers.

Mark did mention the size of the plug. If a plug does not comply with standards it seems unlikely that it will comply with other safety standards, making it unwise to simply replace the plug with a safe one.

Perhaps the main progress we have seen in over 8 years is that Which? has provided us with examples of online marketplaces selling dangerous products and that their owners currently have no legal liability to make sure that traders are complying with the law. Without government action I am not hopeful of seeing progress.

Derek – The website you link to seems to have been the initiative of David Peacock, who passed on, and I have not seen any updates. Latterly he focused mainly on socket covers, which are undoubtedly unnecessary, but not as dangerous as UK mains plugs without fuses. So far I have not seen any examples, only photos and hope that the same applies to you.

Here is a video showing a dangerous plug and I wonder if Markw is referring to a similar one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KMrWupFQt4