We’re calling on the government to protect consumers who purchase from online marketplaces. Our guest, Electrical Safety First, explains more.
This is a guest article by Penny Walshe of Electrical Safety First (ESF). All views expressed are Penny/ESF’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Last Christmas is probably one that a lot of people will want to forget, with national lockdowns in place due to the pandemic meaning that we couldn’t enjoy a lot of our festive traditions. No chance to dress up for the office party, no local celebrities switching on Christmas lights up and down the country, and no shopping trips to secure that ‘must have’ gift for a loved one.
With non-essential shops closed, it’s not surprising that last year 58% of us said that we’d be buying Christmas gifts from online marketplaces. This year the high street is back open for business, but with ongoing concerns about Covid, reported stock shortages and the ease of shopping online, 44% of UK adults say they will still be using marketplaces to buy gifts this year.
Looking specifically at electrical products, more than a third (35%) will be turning to marketplaces to buy their gadgets, with electrical beauty products, games consoles and increasingly popular smart technology topping the nation’s wish lists.
Online marketplaces are an easy and accessible option for shoppers, often offering bargain prices to attract customers. Our research found that a massive 86% of UK adults trust that the products they buy from online marketplaces will be safe.
Research was carried out for Electrical Safety First by Censuswide, using a representative sample of 3,000 UK adults (16+) and carried out between 26 and 29 October 2020 and 28 October and 1 November 2021.
However, due to a lack of regulation, marketplaces can be a hotbed for dangerous electrical products sold by third party sellers. The marketplaces themselves have no legal responsibility for ensuring that the products advertised and sold on their sites are safe.
Even when dangerous products have been removed from a marketplace they are frequently re-listed and there is nothing in place to stop the selling of recalled electrical appliances.
The UK government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards recently published its response to a Call for Evidence on Product Safety. This highlights the consumer risk caused by this lack of regulation and takes a first step towards plugging the gaps in the law that expose consumers to potentially dangerous goods.
It recommends stronger enforcement and the need to raise consumer awareness of the risks associated with buying from online marketplaces, but falls short of calling for legislative change, although a wider public consultation is expected at some point.
Protect consumer from dangerous marketplace products
Considering the revolutionary shift in digital markets and e-commerce, as well as the UK’s exit from the EU, updating our product safety laws will be necessary and inevitable. These reforms must seek to regulate the sale of unsafe products on online marketplaces, and make the marketplaces responsible for the safety of products offered for sale on their platforms.
To coincide with Cyber Monday, a joint letter signed by Electrical Safety First, Which? and other organisations concerned about consumer safety online, has been sent to Rt Hon Nadine Dorries MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
It calls for the Government to introduce measures that will protect consumers who purchase from online marketplaces, protecting them from unsafe products whilst ensuring the UK’s product safety framework is fit for the future.
Electrical Safety First and other consumer protection organisations have sent a joint letter calling for the Government to better regulate online marketplaces. Find out more and read the letter here: https://t.co/0r2uDXd629 #CyberMonday #SaferMonday
— Electrical Safety First (@ElecSafetyFirst) November 29, 2021
How can you shop safely this Christmas?
If you are shopping online this Christmas, try to stick to the retailers you know and trust – buying directly from the manufacturer or from the website of a well-known High Street name.
If you do use an online marketplace, download our free browser extension (link), available on Chrome, Firefox, MS Edge and Safari. ‘Check It Out’ will highlight third party sellers on Amazon and eBay so that you can make an informed decision about your purchase.
For more advice on safe shopping online, you can visit our website here.
And if you agree with us that you deserve more protection when you’re buying from online marketplaces, sign our petition calling for better regulation, and let us know in the comments.
Shop safely this Christmas, and make sure it’s one to remember for all the right reasons.
This was a guest article by Penny Walshe of Electrical Safety First (ESF). All views expressed were Penny/ESF’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.