In recent years there has been rapid growth in the number of people buying from online marketplaces, including sites like eBay and Amazon Marketplace, with over 90% of people in the UK having bought from one.
The choice and convenience offered by these sites means they are no longer a novel way of shopping for millions of people, but a part of everyday life.
Yet through our testing work, Which? has repeatedly found alarming evidence of unsafe and illegal products being sold on many of the biggest online marketplaces, putting countless people at risk and resulting in hundreds of listings being removed from the sites.
Serious safety concerns that we have uncovered include:
- toxic levels of chemicals in children’s toys;
- child car seats that are illegal to use in the UK;
- smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms that do not work, and
- USB chargers that pose a fire or electrocution risk.
Gaps in protection
The failure of the product safety system to keep pace with people’s changing shopping habits has resulted in critical gaps in consumer protections.
Online marketplaces are not currently responsible for ensuring the safety of products sold on their sites, removing unsafe products from sale or notifying customers when something goes wrong.
Regulation of online marketplaces has also failed to keep pace with consumers’ expectations, with many people assuming that the sites are responsible for ensuring safety and 70% of marketplace shoppers telling us they think the law needs changing so that this is the case.
That’s why we’re calling on the next government to take action to give online marketplaces – some of the biggest companies in the world – more responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites, so that people can be confident they are only buying safe products.
We also need an enforcement system, including Trading Standards and the Office for Product Safety and Standards, that has the powers, tools and resources to effectively police the sites, taking action when people are put at risk.
Have you purchased an unsafe product on an online marketplace before, or worried about potentially doing so?
Who do you think should be responsible for product safety online, and why do you think so?
Tell us your story in the comments below.