PlugSafe  Protecting BS 1363 - the world’s safest mains plug and socket and illegal plugs, adaptors and chargers. has demonstrated a remarkable indifference to the requirement to comply with UK law, and an extreme slowness to act.  This was illustrated in a TV programme first broadcast in December 2008.  The BBC Watchdog programme investigated a number of instances of Amazon selling goods that are counterfeit, dangerous, and even banned in the UK. Former Amazon UK Managing Director, Brian McBride, stated on camera that Amazon took this very seriously, did not tolerate illegal products on its site, and if made aware of them would “remove them within the hour”.  In fact the first time we raised the issue of Amazon selling illegal counterfeit plugs in summer 2011 it took them 11 weeks to act to remove them, and that was only after the intervention of an MP!

Below we give a number of links to various illegal products offered for sale on as at 29th March 2014.  It is just a small sample of the products that PlugSafe has reported to Amazon via Trading Standards, some as long ago as November 2011!

Amazon operate a system where multiple suppliers (sometimes dozens) offer against the same product.  If that product is a book it does not matter, but if it is a power lead how do you know what product you will get?  You certainly cannot judge by the picture, we have noted listings which picture a product which is quite different from that specified in the description, and then received something different again!  Bear in mind that under the Amazon review system the reviews do not indicate which of the suppliers provided the product that the reviewer is commenting on.  It is very common to see reviews of commodity type products, like power leads, which have a very unnatural distribution of 5 star and 1 star reviews.  This is because some suppliers on the listing will be offering a high quality product, and others will be offering illegal and dangerous counterfeits.  The purchaser has no idea which is which, and the goods shipped are effectively subject to a quality lottery. 

The sale in the UK of mains plugs, sockets, and adaptors is regulated by the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994.   It is an offence to supply devices or electrical equipment which do not comply with the requirements of the Regulations. The Consumer Protection Act 1987 lays down penalties for an offence against a Safety Regulation as  imprisonment for up to six months or a fine, or both.

The following listing is for a laptop power supply advertised with counterfeit plug cables the illustration clearly showing sleeved earths pin:

The following listings clearly depicts a counterfeit plugs with partially sheathed earth pin:

The following listings are not compliant with BS 1363-3: 1995 “Specification for adaptors”.  They have a single UK style plug and multi foreign sockets, they exhibit a combination faults, missing the required fuse, having pins too close to the periphery, and lacking shutters. 

The next group are adaptors which have multiple plug pins which may be retracted or exchanged, and multi foreign sockets.  None have metal earth pins, but all allow earthed UK plugs to be inserted into them, thus they break the earth connection which is very dangerous.  Some are particularly dangerous as they allow more than one set of pins to be exposed at the same time, so that when plugged in there can be additional live pins projecting. 

Here is another sample list which was included in evidence to the parliamentry committee looking at consumer rights.

For examples of older Amazon listings for illegal power cables, click here.