The socket part of a travel adaptor intended to accept Schuko type plugs (which are earthed plugs) must be recessed and provide the necessary earthing contacts, MICRO does not do that. Because it is not possible to engage British, American and Australian plugs with a recessed socket it is necessary to have a separate adaptor which plugs into a recessed socket and provides the necessary socket contacts, such as the one shown here which is part of a universal travel adaptor designed to meet the standard. This provides appropriate earthing, line and neutral contacts (they have also been outlined with different colours for each set). Note that, in addition to the British, American and Australian contacts, there are also contacts for European plugs which do not require a recessed socket (Italian plugs and the unearthed ‘Europlug’), these are outlined in pink.
The contacts are also oriented to ensure that the correct polarity is maintained between all of the plug pins and all of the socket contacts, as required by the standard, and that the neutral slot for the American plug is wider than the line slot, ensuring that two-pin American plugs will only fit the correct way. None of these essential features are present in the MICRO.
Note that the compliant socket is equipped with shutters (they are a red colour) to block entry of foreign objects into the line and neutral, as required by the standard. In the MICRO picture below there is a clear view of the metal contacts, indicating that there are no shutters, another lack of compliance with the standard.
In a vain attempt to overcome this non-compliance, the MICRO promoters announced (28th August 2017) that they had “attached a cover to the plug-side of MICRO - this way MICRO is covered when it is not in use (whether plugged or unplugged) to restrict access to the electrical parts inside.” This addition is, in reality, a pointless cosmetic exercise which actually does nothing to correct the problem. The cover, a simple external flap, does not conform to the requirement in the standard: “the shutters shall be operated either by the insertion of the earthing pin or by the simultaneous insertion of any two or more pins of the plug.” The addition does, however, confirm that MICRO does not have the required internal shutters! (In fact, the MICRO is simply too small to accommodate automatic internal shutters.)
The standard requires that it be not possible for an earthing pin of any plug intended to be used with the adapter to touch a current carrying socket contact. In practice this requires that the socket face is sufficiently large to prevent, for example, the earth pin of a US or British plug entering a live socket contact. Even if the earth pin is small enough to enter an aperture, the other pins will hit the socket face and prevent the earth pin being inserted as far as the contacts. MICRO, by design, does not have a sufficiently large socket face to do this! Another problem with the MICRO is that the same apertures are used for all pin types. Not only does this reduce the effective electrical contact area available, but it makes the apertures much larger than normal. The earth pin of a BS 1363 plug is 7.9mm in its largest dimension. The maximum width of a BS 1363 socket aperture for live pins is 7.2mm, so insertion of an earth pin into a compliant socket is not possible. however, the width of any aperture intended to accept both US plugs and British plugs is, by definition, in excess of 9mm, so a BS 1363 earth pin will easily enter it, as shown, if not prevented by other means. In such an event the metal case of an earthed appliance, or the outer sleeve of a laptop power supply connector, would become live! In the compliant adaptor socket the apertures are of normal size.
The standard also requires that “any current-carrying plug-pin of the travel adaptor or of a plug intended to be engaged with the travel adaptor does not make contact with a current-carrying socket-contact while any other plug-pin is accessible”. This means that it must not be possible to insert a single pin of a plug in such a way that any other pin “overhangs” the socket. If this did happen then the overhanging pin would become an accessible live part which, if touched, could cause electrocution! (It was for this reason that the Dutch authorities caused the Belkin F8E449ea adaptor to be withdrawn from sale back in 2007, long before the existence of either BS 8546 or the current version of IEC 60884-2-5.) The small size of the MICRO socket face, even smaller than the illegal Belkin, means that there is nothing to prevent this very dangerous, potentially lethal, situation occurring.
BS 8546 requires that an adaptor intended to be used with a BS 1363 socket shall be fitted with a fuse conforming to BS 1362, this is the fuse used in a standard British plug. The MICRO specification includes a T6.3A fuse, which does NOT comply with BS 1362. A fuse in a travel adaptor is not just to protect against overload currents, it is primarily to protect against fault currents such as those caused by short circuits in the flexible cord connected to the plug. This means that the fuse should not only operate when its rated current is exceeded, but it must be capable of breaking a current which is many times greater than its rated current, it may be several thousand amps! A fuse with this capability is normally made with a strong ceramic body, and contains silica sand to quench any arcing within the fuse body and prevent a dangerous explosion. To see what happens when a non-compliant fuse is subject to a short circuit current from mains power watch this video.
When, back in 2007, the Dutch authorities explained to Belkin that their product was unsafe and did not comply with European regulations, Belkin responded in a responsible manner by withdrawing the product from sale, recalling those already sold, and reimbursing purchasers, as reported in news media at the time.
By comparison, when expert engineers, who were involved in the creation of the relevant standards, and in the product approval process, together with Trading Standards officers (British law enforcement officials) with a statutory duty to protect the public from dangerous electrical accessories, explained to the company who developed MICRO that their product was dangerous, and could not receive approval, they had a very different reaction. This is what a company representative wrote on the Kickstarter promotion after Kickstarter suspended their campaign and refunded the backers:
Not only has this British company, Kickstart Success Ltd, (offering to supply a product intended to be used in Britain) declared their contempt for British law enforcement by claiming they have “no business assessing or certifying products such as MICRO”, but, having been kicked off of Kickstarter, they then continued to raise funds on another crowdfunding website for the same dangerous and illegal product!
On 28th August 2017 a question was posed on the Indiegogo project page: “Could you address the safety concerns that were raised about on Kickstarter? As far as I can tell you’re going to have difficulties importing a product into the UK that doesn’t conform to BS 1363 (as the pins aren’t rectangular).”
The answer, from Monica, was: “We understand your concern, however we will be shipping MICRO directly from the manufacturer in China. Importing it into the UK was never part of our plan because that adds another layer to the logistics and can potentially delay our timeline.
To our knowledge, it is not illegal to have travel adapters couriered in to a physical person who doesn't intend to commercialise (i.e. sell) it. We don't see how customs can say you can't receive MICRO since you might as well have pledged for it to use it outside the UK. Also, given the plethora of amazon.co.uk sellers importing and selling travel adapters, many of which don't conform with the new BS, it doesn't seem like customs are particularly concerned with the type of travel adapters being received into the UK.
Using logic here, people will continue to buy their travel adapters outside the UK, then bring it along and use it in the UK. In fact, just less than a month ago we travelled through 3 major European airports and found travel adapters from established sellers and which simply carry the CE marking, but are clearly not in line with BS standard. Travellers from around the world buy them and face no safety issues provided they use it as intended by the manufacturer.” (The words here are those which Monica used, we have edited out irrelevant passages, but you can see the original on Indiegogo.)
Monica’s answer makes it quite clear that the promoter’s believe that they can ignore standards and regulations, relying only on their own assessment of what is safe and what is not! It ignores the fact that the new standard was introduced precisely to combat the number of unsafe travel adaptors appearing on the market! Our RAPEX page provides evidence of recent removals of unsafe travel adaptors from the market, initiated by various European countries. The fact that some other companies break the law is not a justification for Kickstart Success Ltd. to do so! They have set up their business model in an attempt to circumvent safety regulations by not directly importing the products. They show a quite disgraceful disregard for law and the safety of their customers.
On June 9th 2018 Monica published an update which details the “certifications” which they claim have been granted to the MICRO as follows:
- RoHS (restriction of hazardous substances). This is an important European Union requirement designed to ensure that hazardous materials are not used in electrical products, but it has absolutely nothing to do with electrical safety.
- REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals). This is also an important European Union requirement, but it also has absolutely nothing to do with electrical safety.
- CE EMC (CE Marking is the application to a product of the CE symbol. The letters "CE" are the abbreviation of the French phrase "Conformité Européene" which means "European Conformity" and is a requirement of the European Union. EMC is an abbreviation of “Electromagnetic compatibility” which is the branch of electrical engineering concerned with the unintentional generation, propagation and reception of electromagnetic energy which may cause unwanted effects such as electromagnetic interference (EMI). Passive devices like MICRO are excluded from the regulations as they come under the category of “Plugs, sockets, etc.” which can neither generate, nor are susceptible to, EMC (had MICRO included a charger of any sort it would have been different). In other words, the company is simply wasting money to gain an irrelevant certification.
- FCC (US Federal Communications Commission) 47 CFR FCC part 15 subpart B & ANSI C63.4. As with the European standards, there is no requirement to test passive devices such as MICRO, so this is another irrelevant certification.
- Certificate of LVD compliance. (The European Union Low Voltage Directive), The tests applied are said to be in compliance with EN 60950-1” Information technology equipment. Safety. General requirements.” This standard is the one applicable to plug-in chargers of the type used to power small electrical equipment via a USB socket, which MICRO does not have. This is not the relevant standard for travel adaptors like MICRO.
The MICRO team have had their product certified to several standards, the majority are not relevant to their product. Is this the result of ignorance and incompetence, or is it part of a “smoke and mirrors” scheme to mislead investors and hide the fact MICRO is fundamentally unsafe?
We know that British Trading Standards Officers alerted the MICRO team to the dangers that the product poses to users. We also know that a number of prominent experts advised on what standards the MICRO needs to meet, (IEC 60884-2-5 and BS 8546) and the reasons it fails to do so.
But we also have Monica’s statement which gives a clear indication that they were unconcerned about the advice they had received, and also that they intend to avoid customs officers by shipping individual packages directly from China to investors. Clearly, there was never any intention of them complying with the relevant standards.