PlugSafe  Protecting BS 1363 - the world’s safest mains plug and socket

 

 

PlugSafe is a volunteer organisation  working with other bodies to fight the threats to UK plug safety due to abuses, illegal counterfeits and a loophole in the standard itself.

For information on the dangers caused by plug-in socket covers for BS 1363 sockets, visit FatallyFlawed
PlugSafe is also concerned with dangerous plug adaptors , chargers and universal sockets.      Get our “Size Matters” Fact Sheet

Counterfeit Plugs

The Plugs and Sockets, etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 were introduced to provide a regulatory regime to address issues regarding consumer safety. There were concerns that consumer safety was compromised by the substantial quantity of counterfeit and unsafe electrical plugs and sockets being placed on the UK market.  Despite this, there are a number of web retailers who advertise counterfeit plugs which, although being fraudulently marked “BS 1363”, are not compliant. These plugs are usually offered as part of a complete lead with a socket on the other end.

We are always looking for user experiences with counterfeit UK plugs and cables.  We are especially interested in first hand experience of sparking, melting and burning (often reported in Amazon customer reviews of counterfeits).  Please tell us about your experience.

A common indicator of a counterfeit plug is an earth pin which is partially insulated. BS 1363 requires that all power pins (the shorter pins) are partially insulated. However, earth pins must be solid brass, or, in the case of plugs intended solely for use with non-earthed devices, solid plastic. BS 1363 is quite specific, clause 12.16 states "Sleeves shall not be fitted to any earthing plug pin."  Having a sleeve on an earth pin is dangerous because it can prevent there being any contact to the earth of the socket.  To ensure that the earth connection is made as soon as the plug touches the socket many sockets place the contact right at the faceplate, this means that continuity is lost as soon as a plug with a sleeved earth is fully inserted!
PLEASE NOTE: Plugs with partially sleeved earth pins are ALWAYS counterfeit, and are not allowed to be sold, even for non-earthed applications.

KC1 KC4
KC2 KC3

The power lead shown above is the worst type we have seen.  We bought them from Amazon.co.uk suppliers “Star e-shop” and “eBlink”, and have also seen them offered by other Amazon.co.uk and eBay.co.uk. suppliers.  These leads have the following faults:
•Counterfeit fuse ( a very crude imitation with no approval marks, no sand filling, loose end caps) - it was not even connected to anything!
•Partially sleeved earth pin, and all pins are the wrong size.
•The colour coding of the wires is not in conformance with any known standard, and the C5 connector is wired in reverse!
•The moulding of the plug/cable assembly has taken place with the fuse carrier and fuse in place, with nothing to prevent the moulding material flowing into the fuse chamber, one of the samples was almost entirely filled in this way completely sealing in one end of the fuse.
•The plug is marked: “ KING CORO”, “APProved bY BSI” and “Licence No 41231” with a counterfeit Kitemark
•The cable is marked “CCC YF 227 IEC 53(RVV) 3x0.75mm2  300/500V GB5023.5-1997 MADE IN CHINA”, but actual conductors are less than 10% of rated value!
•The outer covering of the cable and the insulation on the conductors is so weak that it can be easily peeled off using finger nails only.

Counterfeit_plug_l

Some counterfeit plugs have pins which are the wrong size, too short, too long, too thick and too thin.

This lead (shown far left compared with a genuine BS 1363 plug) was bought from an ebay seller in May 2011 had a plug that was completely the wrong size and was fitted with a fuse which was so loose it rattled!  In addition, the fuse (which was itself counterfeit, and not compliant with BS 1362) was the wrong value for the lead type. 
The line wire was connected directly to the pin, THE FUSE WAS NOT CONNECTED!!!   
We have also seen this plug on Amazon.co.uk

Counterfeit_plug_2

This counterfeit plug (shown right) was supplied with a charger purchased through
Amazon.co.uk  It is marked with a BSI kitemark and has illegal earth sleeving.  It also has power pin sleeving which is too long.  The moulding is of poor quality, and the strain relief has failed.  It was fitted with a counterfeit fuse, which, unlike the plug above, was connected.     
The cable to which it was attached claims to be 3 core 0.75mm2
(24x 0.2mm strands), but the strands are actually only 0.1mm.  
A genuine 3 core 0.75mm2 cable is also shown for comparison.

The main purpose of a plug fuse is to protect the flex against a short circuit.  Genuine fuses contain a filling of silica sand which acts to prevent arcing when a fuse blows.
  Counterfeit fuses are not filled in this way.     A UK Government warning explains that counterfeit fuses can explode when they blow! 
Watch this video to see what happens to a counterfeit fuse when the flex connected to the plug is short circuited.  Here is a similar video from Electrical Safety First.

Pictured left, three versions of another type of very dangerous plug.  These plugs have no fuse at all! , All of these were available from various trade vendors on eBay.co.uk in March 2012.
The plug in the centre was also available from Amazon.co.uk in March 2012.
We are still getting reports of these plugs being supplied through both sites.  All of these plugs have the pins placed illegally close to the periphery of the plug. 

Illegal plug 3n Illegal plug 4
Illegal plug 2n
Sleeve detail

To demonstrate why partially sleeved earth pins are so dangerous we stripped away all of the parts of a socket except the earth contact.

The picture (right) shows that the earth contact touches only the insulated part of the pin, at the points indicated by the red arrows.

Counterfeit_plug_3

On the left is another counterfeit plug which was supplied with a charger purchased from Amazon.  You can see an image of the Amazon listing on the Amazon sample page here.

The charger supplied was different from the one offered, and a different mains lead was supplied.  (The one pictured in the listing had a cloverleaf connector also with an illegal plug having an insulated earth pin). 

This plug appears similar to the one shown above but without a partially insulated earth pin.  However, it is still a counterfeit!  Close inspection reveals that what appears to be a BSI Kitemark moulded into the plug is in fact not a Kitemark, the approval mark next to that claims that the plug is approved by STGS, a fictitious organisation.  The cartridge fuse fitted to the plug claims to be a BS 1362 13A fuse, but is also counterfeit.

In 2008 the BBC “Watchdog” programme took Amazon to task for selling counterfeit and illegal goods.   Brian McBride (then Amazon UK managing director) was interviewed in that programme, stating: “we do not tolerate counterfeit products ..  we take them down as soon as we find out about them”.  Really?  Only one of the counterfeits we have bought from Amazon has been recalled!!!
The BBC page linked above describes the Amazon segment of the programme.
Some of the illegal product types which Amazon assured the BBC would be removed continue to be sold on Amazon more than five years on!  Here is a compilation of 10 illegal pepper spray products captured on the Amazon.co.uk website in March 2014: Amazon Pepper Spray and also an example of a captured page from Amazon (April 2012) offering  CS Spray  

Amazon UK continues to allow illegal and dangerous electrical goods to be sold through its marketplace, here is an annotated compilation of some samples of such products among the many which were listed at the beginning of March 2014, both this and other examples were included in evidence to the parliamentry committee looking at consumer rights.   Click here for further information on Amazon.co.uk listings for products which include illegal plugs and adaptors. 

We have made a similar March 2014 annotated compilation of eBay sample listings (all still available in June 2014!!!).  Click here for an earlier gallery of sample ebay.co.uk listings for products which include illegal plugs, these are amongst the THOUSANDS of listings which ebay has removed since this campaign started in August 2011.  The listings removed included over 140 of the completely illegal plug without a fuse!  See samples of the deleted listings)

Although we wish eBay would prevent illegal plugs ever being offered for sale on their website we would like to acknowledge that, unlike Amazon, eBay take prompt action when informed of illegal listings by Trading Standards Departments.  However, we have had absolutely no success in reporting illegal listings directly.  eBay do provide a report button on every listing, but, in our experience, take no action when a product is reported via that method!
 

Read a report on the problem of plugs with sleeved pins by Bob Austen of Pattestingman.

View a video made by Whites Electrical Portable Appliance Testing illustrating the problem of plugs with sleeved pins.

 

Loophole in BS 1363

There is a problem in BS 1363 which allows extension sockets to be manufactured with the earth hole placed too close to the edge.  Most multi-way portable socket outlets exploit this loophole and permit the insertion of an inverted plug into the earth pin only, thus opening the shutters of the current carrying contacts.  This is a clear danger as can be seen from these photos.

It is to be hoped that this oversight will be corrected at the next revision of BS 1363.  Until then it is important to ensure that children are not allowed access to this type of extension.

extension
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