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As Black Friday approaches, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service issues important electrical fire safety guidance

‘Be vigilant when buying electrical appliances from popular online marketplaces’ warns fire service

As the run-up to the festive season draws closer, residents are already starting to think about buying Christmas presents for their loved ones. Black Friday bargains, such as mobile phones, televisions, laptops and domestic white goods, including refrigerators, washing machines and microwave ovens, will no doubt be on the top of many shoppers’ Christmas lists this year.

With this in mind, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is sharing some important guidance when buying electrical products online, and providing electrical fire safety advice to help reduce the risk of fires and keep our communities safe.

As the popularity for online shopping continues to grow, so too does the risk of fake electrical products being sold to UK shoppers. In the UK, widely-used online marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay and Wish, do not need to comply with the same laws as traditional retailers. Consequently, fake and other dangerous electrical products are being sold to unknowing consumers. Such products may contain sub-standard or counterfeit parts, and pose a serious risk of fire or electric shock.

The issue has become so serious that the UK charity Electrical Safety First has set up an online petition to stop the sale of sub-standard electrical goods via online marketplaces, reporting that one-third of people who have bought a fake electrical product have done so from such websites.

Gail Muirhead, West Hub Prevention Manager, RBFRS commented: “It can be extremely difficult to know whether you are buying a genuine product because fake goods often look the same on the outside. However, they may contain faulty components that can overheat and catch fire, or deliver a fatal electric shock.”

If you do plan to buy electrical items online, RBFRS has issued the following guidance:

  • Buy from a reputable retailer that you know and trust – that way if something goes wrong, you can return the product for repair or a refund.
  • Look out for the United Kingdom Conformity Assessed (UKCA) mark. This replaces CE marking in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) for most electrical products. By applying the UKCA mark to a product, the manufacturer is stating that it meets UK safety regulations.
  • If you suspect you have purchased a fake product, stop using it immediately and report it to your local Trading Standards.

To prevent electrical fires in the home, RBFRS is asking residents to follow this advice:

  • Don’t overload plug sockets – keep to one per socket.
  • Unplug electrical appliances and chargers when you’re not using them and when you go out or go to bed.
  • Never leave mobile phones and other appliances on or under your pillow or bed covers (or soft furnishings) while you are sleeping – they could overheat and start a fire.
  • Look out for signs of dangerous or loose wiring e.g. scorch marks, hot plugs and sockets, flickering lights, fuses that blow or circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reason.
  • Regularly check for frayed or worn cables and wires.
  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order.
  • Register your electrical appliances so that you are the first to know of any safety repairs or product recalls. This can be done via the manufacturers’ websites, or through the ‘register my appliance website’.
  • If you own appliances that are subject to a product recall, do not use them. To find out if you have a product that is subject to recall, visit the Product Recalls and Alerts Government website.
  • Think about fitting a residual current device (RCD) which is a life-saving device designed to protect you from a potentially fatal electric shock. It provides a level of protection that ordinary fuses or circuit-breakers do not.
  •  If a fire does start in your home, always get out, stay out and call 999 immediately.

For more information about electrical safety, visit our Electrical Safety page.