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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
Phil says:
2 April 2017

I recently started to refurbish 1960s Tape Recorders as a hobby. The ones I have up to now have all been UK models but I recently purchased a Grundig TK27L which unlike the other Grundigs I have, was made in Germany. It has a two pin plug with only two wires and no earth whereas a similar TK17L UK model has an earth wire connected to the chassis. I was thinking of replacing the two wires with a 3 wire flex and UK plug and connecting to the chasis as the TK17L. What do you think?

No problem Phil it has a mains transformer with a secondary output to valves-(2) EF86 (input ) -(2) ECC81-EM84 (magic eye ) -EL95 (output ) . In those days European plug regulations were different and 2 pin was common . Positive/live/ 230V AC is connected to the fused input to the transformer . earth should be connected ( for low hum ) near the input valves steel chassis . Very interested in this Phil ANY help you require -PLEASE let me know I have a room full of old valve equipment data and valves + VCM MK4 any questions just ask no matter how technical. If the tape recorder was built without a mains isolating transformer the valve line up would be different and it would be dangerous to work on without a 1:1 isolating transformer.

Hi Duncan and thanks for the reply. One question: On the TK27L with no earth there is a 1M ohm resistor between the chassis and the frame of the motor, this is not present on the TK17L with an earth. What’s that resistor for?

Hello Phil, its to stop direct interference from the motor affecting the audio reproduction , if its a carbon resistor change it for a modern metal one . In sensitive input circuits like the EF86 even small amounts of interference can be amplified and be heard att the output. Thats why I said put the earth near the chassis where the EF86 are as its only a short path to earth there . its very easy to create an earth loop so watch you dont create two earth paths , in high end amps the input earthing and output earthing is sometimes separated by a 10 ohm resistor for the same purpose but that is only possible in modern printed circuit design not in the old -all-in-one steel/aluminium chassis .

norman says:
28 April 2017

I have a blender supplied by Wellindal with a two pin plug. Unable to contact this firm as the phone is not answered and it is not posssible to contact them by email.

alex says:
5 January 2018

[Sorry, your comment has been removed to align with our community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

Ian Davis says:
20 July 2017

I recently used the Etihad rewards shop to order a Braun iron. The iron was provided by the merchant Qaez, based in Holland. I should have noticed the warning on the Etihad rewards shop pages but never thought anyone would be so stupid as to sell two pin plugged items to the UK market. Why would Etihad do this? They will either get no UK orders or lots of complaints.

Etihad have washed their hands of my complaint and say it is for me to talk to Qaez. Qaez did not even supply an adaptor/transformer. They say I can post the heavy iron back to Holland but I will have to pay the costs.

I know have a lovely iron that is completely useless to me and no idea what type of adaptor or transformer I need to use for it to safely work in the UK.

The selling of two pin items to the UK market should be illegal. At least, the ‘two pin’ aspect of these products should be highlighted in bold at the top of each product page and added to the item title/name.

I am disgusted with Etihad and Qaez but there is nothing I can do. Only to make sure I never use either company again and pass on my bad experiences.

The Schuko plug will fit into the three-pin socket and is perfectly safe as I have had them at home for over ten years. All you have to do is insert a screw-driver into the top hole of the socket and insert the Schuko plug and voilà. My intention is not to be pedantic but the two-pin plug is not called a European plug as there are various types of European plugs: British, Irish, Swiss, Italian, Schuko et al.

THIS IS DANGEROUS.

It will work but if there is a problem with the equipment you could set the house on fire. There is no fuse in a Schuko plug and also you could damage or overheat the socket.

bishbut says:
11 September 2017

Two pin plugs can be inserted either way so unless you appliance has a double pole switch in can still be live when switched off The switch could only switch the neutral side leaving all the appliance live but not working Dangerous things Two pin plugs were proposed and rejected by most electricians and their organisations when proposed to follow the EU in the eighties

A couple of days ago I had a look at a friend’s ancient Bamix hand-held blender, which was still working but produced smoke. As I had expected, the suppression capacitor had failed. I am not sure of the vintage but the blender cable has the modern brown and blue insulation on the conductors. Disappointingly the blue is connected to the single-pole mains switch. Naughty.

dave says:
25 January 2018

The same way as it is illegal to have a power socket in the bathroom whilst it is standard in the whole world. Perhaps building standards of the houses should be improved instead applying rubbish restrictions.

I think I would rather stay with our existing regulations, Dave.

What specifically needs to be improved in our building standards?

Roger says:
28 March 2018

A number of issues cross my mind with this approach:
1 – Often the plugs used in European countries actually have an earth contact down their side so, although they only have two obvious ‘pins’ they are actually three pole connectors, but this isn’t always the case. In the case of such three pole connectors, insertion into a UK BS1363 mains socket fails to provide connection to earth ….a safety risk.
2 – UK BS1363 mains sockets have flat connections within, which provide a large surface contact area for UK BS1363 plugs. Similarly Schucko type mains sockets contain curved connections, to provide a reasonable contact area for round pinned Schucko plugs. Insertion of round pinned plugs into mains sockets designed to accept flat pinned plugs means that only a thin strip of the flat contact touches the round pin. At high current levels this could lead to overheating and, possibly, an outbreak of fire.
3 – UK BS1363 sockets are rated at a current of 13 Amps, Schucko type sockets are rated at 16Amps; devices sourced from within the EU, delivered with Schucko plugs attached may exceed the rating of a UK mains socket by some 500watts – I have a case of this is hand at the moment; a 3.5Kw Burrito Oven, sourced in the EU, delivered with a factory fitted 16A Schucko plug ….exceeds the rating of a UK mains socket as described previously, so a dedicated spur is being installed to serve the oven, with a 16A breaker and a single Schucko socket.

Roger says:
28 March 2018

17th edition wiring regulations permit the installation of sockets in bathrooms, providing the socket is located at least 3m from the outer edge of ‘Zone 2’. From a practical perspective, the ‘3m’ requirement tends to rule out many (most) bathrooms.

Sonic says:
8 June 2018

Have a bit of a problem with using a 2pin EU to 3pin UK adapter plugged in to a 220V, 50 Hz German Wurzburg W-8500 generator. The sockets on the generator have two horizontal pins and a provided earth connection top AND bottom. The adapter is symmetric but with no earth of its own, just the space for the earth connections from the generator to connect to any 3pin plug used in the adapter. Consequently it can be plugged in the normal way up (so an inserted 3pin plug lead would be at the bottom) and upside down (where an inserted 3pin plug lead would be at the top). It would seem logical to plug in the adapter so the 3 pin socket is the normal way up with the earth on top. BUT, turning it upside down could mean connecting the live directly to earth (I don’t know the circuits inside the generator). Surely, the manufacturer should have provided just ONE earth (at the top, maybe ?) ensuring any appliance requiring an earth must be plugged in the normal way up. Meaning that the adapter would also have to plugged in to the generator the normal way up. OR have I got it all wrong????

Sonic the only European socket that has an earth at the top and bottom is the recessed type F unless you are talking about the Swiss-type J , there are three phase sockets on the generator as well as a 12 V supply. I have the full list from A to O. Type F has two round horizontal pins with “contacts” at top and bottom for earthing, this type is universal in Europe. Type J has two round horizontal pins with a raised earth pin equidistant between them, this should be used with a plug that plugs in with the earth pin above the two other pins in the normal fashion, but make sure what socket you are plugging it into. The J type socket has two horizontal round holes with two round holes equidistant between them at the top of the socket and at the bottom of the socket.

Hi Sonic – Let’s assume that you are not interested in using the 3-phase output, a rather unusual feature for a fairly low power portable generator. I assume it has a Schuko (Type F) socket, which Duncan mentions. One of the disadvantages of the Schuko socket is that is is non-polarised – the plug can be inserted either way round. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_power_plugs_and_sockets

In my opinion (and I’m no expert) it’s OK to use a portable generator to power a single item such as a power tool without an earth, assuming that the generator is not earthed. For other purposes the generator should be earthed (the generator should have a connector for this purpose) and Neutral linked to Earth at the generator. You would need an adaptor that does connect the Earth contacts of the socket to the Earth pin of the UK or other plug.

My Honda generator came with an unfamiliar 3-pin socket and I swapped it for a 16 amp blue weatherproof socket, which are common used outdoors, for example at caravan sites.

DerekP says:
9 June 2018

Sonic, most of Euro 2 pin to UK 3 pin adapters that I’ve seen are cheap “shavers only” designs that aren’t safe to use on circuits that need an earth connection.

Some do properly cater for earth connections, but those are more elusive and expensive.

This is sometimes an issue where I work, when foreign visitors bring in laptops that need earthed supplies.

Earthed referenced shouldn’t be required on laptops or they wouldn’t function without a lead (battery operation ) but in a SMPS circuit a smoothing capacitor is connected to earth to bypass AC (type ) voltages .

DerekP says:
9 June 2018

Or in simple terms some laptop chargers use a 3 wire connection and some don’t.

I’ve just received a craft iron from Amazon.co.uk and it arrived with an EU plug which I changed to a 13amp UK plug and (most importantly) fitted the correct fuse.

Nice to see that Sainsbury’s may have become more aware of the safety issues involved when EU visitors want to use their earthed appliances over here.

Imaging my surprise on finding a proper earthed EU/UK visitor adaptor on sale here in sunny Gloucester:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/plugs-two-pin-british-amazon-electrical-appliances/#comment-1568686

Hilda says:
13 October 2019

I got a macowave from amazon only got to prongs on it my wall socket has 3prongs can I use a 3point plug a
to put the 2pronge microwave in the wall

In a direct answer to your question Hilda well you can buy an adapter but I don’t advise cutting off the euro plug ( loss of guarantee ) and I don’t know if its German or French .
There are a lot of issues here including electrical safety and guarantee – check out –
https://www.ebay.co.uk/b/2-Pin-To-3-Pin-Plug-Adapter/19315/bn_7023408067
Why don’t you return it to Amazon Hilda and ask for a UK plug version ?
There is also the point that your microwave would be about -1000watts that’s just over 4 amps so those electrical razor converters definitely wont do apart from the fact I know they are unsafe having blown plenty when young due to the unsecure connection.
You would need the larger types .
A case has already been heard in the UK where a guy cut off the plug and fitted a UK plug , it went on fire but the company (Amazon ) disclaimed liability as (in their words ) – “we didn’t sell it like that” Amazon won in a UK court so I would return it , if not then get an electrician in to help you if I helped you and something happened I would be liable.

Hi Hilda and Duncan, before using any kind of plug adaptor, you’d need to check whether or not you need one that provides for the two euro pins and also, most importantly, any associated earth connection.

For example, the spare recent production inexpensive microwave that I have here clearly states in its safety notices that it needs a grounded (i.e. earthed) connection.

Personally, I’ve never seen a microwave that didn’t need an earth connection.

I think the best advice here would be to return the offending microwave oven and get a UK specification one instead.

Failing that, a competent person could be employed to fit a UK plug.

The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 require that products sold in the UK have either a UK 3-pin plug or a converter plug is fitted when supplied. No adaptors are permitted. One of the reasons is that an inappropriate adaptor could be used – for example one lacking an Earth connection. As Derek says, a microwave oven must have an Earth, which protects from electric shock in event of a fault.

I suggest that Hilda asks Amazon to collect their microwave oven and refund her money.

As it is illegal to supply appliances with incorrect plugs fitted, and it seems to be a habit of Amazon, is it not time to take action against them to make them more responsible?