Dangerous electrical chargers are destroyed

One of the laptop chargers seized by Trading Standards.
One of the laptop chargers seized by Trading Standards.

Thousands of dangerous electrical items imported by a North Tyneside business have been stopped from going on sale by trading standards officers.

The National Trading Standards Safety at Ports and Borders Team was concerned about the safety of 2,988 laptop chargers, which had arrived at the Port of Felixstowe.

They alerted trading standards officers within North Tyneside Council as the devices had been imported from China by a North Shields-based firm trading over the internet.

Officers visited the premises where they found further laptop chargers. Tests at the Tyne and Wear Trading Standards Joint Committee Laboratory showed they were unsafe, leading to another 184 being seized.

The chargers breached safety regulations because there was inadequate insulation between the circuit and its casing, plus its three pin plug casing was not of sufficient size – both increasing the risk of electric shock.

The owner of the business is now attempting to source laptop chargers from a new supplier and has agreed to work with the trading standards team to ensure they are safe.

Alan Burnett, trading standards and licensing group leader, said: “Protecting consumers from harm is our top priority.

“Through working closely with national trading standards colleagues, we have prevented thousands of unsafe laptop chargers entering the market.

“This is an ongoing investigation.”

“While we will always prosecute where necessary, on other occasions we will explore whether we can work with the particular business.

“In this case, the company owner has cooperated fully with us and has provided an undertaking to have electrical products he imports in future tested by an independent test house in the UK.

“Trading Standards will continue to monitor these products to ensure the business is compliant with consumer safety laws regarding the goods it sells.”

The charity Electrical Safety First has produced the following advice when buying plug-in chargers:

Plug pins

• Check that there is at least 9.5mm between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger (9.5 mm is about the width of a ballpoint pen). If the distance between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger is less than 9.5 mm, there is a risk of electric shock when plugging in and unplugging the charger from a socket.

• Plug the charger into a socket but don’t switch it on or connect it to your appliance.

• Does it plug in easily? If the charger does not easily plug into a socket, the pins may be the wrong size or length, or the distance between the pins may be wrong. If pins do not fit properly into the socket, overheating, arcing and mechanical damage can occur to both the socket and the charger, which can be dangerous.

Markings

• Look for a manufacturer’s brand name or logo, model and batch number.

• Check for a CE mark.

• Check that the output voltage and current ratings marked on the charger and your electrical device are the same.

• Do not rely on a CE mark alone as a guarantee of safety – it’s simply a declaration by the manufacturer that the product meets all the safety requirements of European law, but they can be easily forged.

Warnings and instructions

• Adequate warnings and instructions must be provided. As a minimum, user instructions should provide information on conditions and limitations of use, how to operate the charger safely, basic electrical safety guidance and details of how to safely dispose of the charger when it is no longer required.