Electrical Fire Safety Week - shop safely online this Christmas

Concerns around Covid-19 have led many Scots to desert their High Street to buy online. Here, Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of leading consumer protection charity, Electrical Safety First, explains why people could be swapping one safety risk for another.

In the run-up to Electrical Safety Week (23rd-29th November), we undertook some research around online shopping during the pandemic. We found that three out of five Scots (59%), will use online marketplaces for ‘safer’ Christmas shopping. And 58% of them are planning to use these websites more than ever before. However, shopping online, as an alternative to visiting your local High Street, may not be as safe as it seems.

In fact, such consumer confidence is not supported by our findings. We have undertaken multiple investigations into unsafe electricals for sale from online marketplaces - including Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.com. And we have repeatedly found dangerous electrical products are easily bought from online marketplaces’ third-party sellers. Given that three-quarters of fires in Scotland’s homes are caused by electricity, with most arising from electrical products, this is a risk you don’t want to take.

This year, 20% of those we surveyed are planning to buy an electrical item as a gift this Christmas. Yet we have previously discovered that three out of five fake electricals in the UK are purchased online, with a third of buyers experiencing major problems with the item. 

So we are urging people to reduce their chances of buying dangerous electricals by sticking to the stores or websites of known manufacturers and retailers. And to beware of buying from third party sellers online. 

To help people shop safely from online marketplaces, we have developed a ‘Check it Out’ browser extension, available for Chrome, Firefox, MS Edge and Safari. It alerts consumers - when shopping on Amazon or eBay - if they are buying from a third-party seller, rather than directly from the manufacturer, or a High Street name, they know and trust.

We all love a bargain and Christmas is always expensive!  But unlike a fake designer handbag or dress, a counterfeit or substandard electrical can have a life-changing impact. With us all staying at home to keep safe this Christmas, an unsafe electrical product would be a most unwelcome seasonal gift.

For more advice on how to shop online safely this Christmas, visit:  www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/spotthefake