Residents in Bath are being warned of the dangers of buying unsafe electrical chargers from online marketplaces after a local woman found hers melting her smartwatch and burning her furniture.
Allainah Rivers had bought a dual phone and watch charger online and was using it to charge her smart watch when she realised the charger had melted, destroying her watch and burning the chest of drawers it was lying on.
Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Trading Standards team is advising people to use established retailers to buy these types of products, as online marketplaces are not currently responsible for ensuring that the products sold on their sites are safe.
The supplier of the goods, in this case, are based in mainland China and denied responsibility and as they have no link to the UK, they cannot be investigated by Trading Standards.
Allainah Rivers said of the incident: “I could smell a burning smell. As a mother of two I feel we were extremely lucky to escape without there being a fire.
“The online retailer has offered to refund the cost of the charger, however as the charger was purchased from a seller based in China, I have no means of reclaiming my losses for my smartwatch or my badly burned chest of drawers.
“It is not acceptable for marketplaces to pass the buck for the responsibility of the items sold on their sites by simply pointing the finger at sellers.
“If I’d have purchased the charger from a reputable shop in the UK they would have to compensate me for my losses.”
Chargers on auction sites are considerably cheaper than their branded counterparts, but there is no guarantee they meet safety standards.
Martin Shields, the council’s Corporate Director, said: “Currently there is no legislation in place that would allow our Trading Standards team to take action over unsafe goods supplied from abroad and sold online.
“In the lead up to Christmas we urge consumers to use established retailers who go through official channels, so they do not face the same problems.
“These retailers can trace their supply chain and cancel orders if there are faults. It might cost a few pounds more, but unsafe electrical products could cost you your home, your life or the life of a loved one”.
A key safety concern with products bought online focuses on generic chargers which are advertised as being compatible with several devices.
Different devices require different levels of charge, but generic chargers run the risk of putting too much energy into a device, causing the battery to overheat.
Branded chargers are much less likely to pose a risk because they are specifically designed for each particular device.
Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Trading Standards team ask anyone who has experienced a similar issue to get in touch via their partner agency, the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506.