Second-hand shouldn’t mean second-rate

London Trading Standards warns: second-hand shouldn’t mean second-rate when it comes to electrical products

Following a London wide trading standards campaign, it has been found that 27% of second-hand electrical products on sale were deemed to be unsafe.

Throughout March 2016, Trading Standards officers from 15 London authorities visited 64 second-hand electrical goods retailers and checked 783 products. Disappointingly 211 failed to meet basic safety requirements. In some cases products labelled as being safety tested had not been.

Compared to new products, second-hand electrical appliances pose a higher risk as they may have been misused, dropped, damaged, subject to product recalls or missing vital safety information.

Trading Standards Officers carrying out the visits were accompanied by an independent electrical safety expert who examined products on sale and identified the dangers that some of them posed. The risks found included potential electric shock and access to live parts.

Nine test purchases were also carried out on items that were on display but purportedly “not for sale”.  All failed to meet the safety standards required.

A common theme was lamps that were fitted with 2-pin European plugs and outdated UK plugs, all failing to meet the latest requirements regarding partially sleeved live and neutral pins. During a trading standards visit, a shop was found selling over 60 items with illegal plugs – many of these posed a serious safety risk to purchasers.

Steve Playle, spokesperson for London Trading Standards said: “The results of this exercise are very disturbing and clearly demonstrate that consumers purchasing second-hand are being exploited by retailers who either don’t understand their legal obligations or are simply ignoring them.”  He added: “Just because products are second-hand doesn’t mean it is acceptable for them to be unsafe.  Our advice to consumers is to only purchase second-hand electrical goods at reputable established retailers who can give reassurance that they have been professionally tested for safety.  While we all want to save money, the risks are very high when buying second hand electricals and careful thought is needed before making a purchase.”

On the positive side, 41% of retailers inspected were found to be completely compliant and had processes and procedures in place to comply with the law.  All retailers involved in the checks were given comprehensive advice about their future responsibilities. Investigations on those who failed to meet standards are ongoing and may result in further action being taken against them.

Consumers who suspect a trader is selling unsafe electrical goods should report the matter to their local trading standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

The safety project was partially sponsored by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.