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Unsafe carbon monoxide alarms that fail to detect potentially lethal gas are being sold online | UK News

Dangerous carbon monoxide alarms are being sold online, Which? has warned.

The consumer watchdog says devices that fail to detect high levels of the potentially lethal gas were found on eBay, Amazon, AliExpress and Wish.

Which? claims the government is failing to take “urgent action” to hold these marketplaces to account – and it first flagged one of the unsafe models to eBay seven years ago.

That device failed to respond to carbon monoxide in 10 out of 28 tests – and even when it did, the alarm was too quiet.

Pic: Which?
Image:
Pic: Which?

A total of 149 listings for dangerous carbon monoxide alarms were discovered across the four websites – and all of them have now been removed.

eBay was the only company to disclose sales figures, and revealed at least 1,311 had been sold on its platform.

Five dangerous alarm models – all unbranded and made in China – featured prominently on these websites when the “cheapest first” filter was chosen, with some being offered for as little as £5.

One alarm failed to trigger 22 times when carbon monoxide was in the air, while another product didn’t sound in 15 separate tests.

Sue Davies, the watchdog’s head of consumer protection policy, said: “Which? has been raising concerns about dangerous CO alarms for years, yet online marketplaces continue to allow them on their sites and into people’s homes, despite the potentially fatal consequences.

“This is the latest in a long line of examples of unsafe products being readily available on online marketplaces, with far too little action taken by the platforms to prevent them being allowed for sale.

“The government cannot delay any longer. It must move at pace to establish new regulations that put consumer safety first and enable tough enforcement action against online marketplaces that break the rules.”

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Pic: Which?
Image:
Pic: Which?

Avril and Gordon Samuel founded the Katie Haines Memorial Trust in 2010 following the death of their daughter from CO poisoning and have been campaigning for better awareness.

Avril said: “We have previously highlighted concerns about some carbon monoxide alarms being sold online, many coming from China, and campaigned vigorously about the need to purchase CO alarms only from reputable manufacturers and retailers.”

She added: “If the alarm is not to standard, this defence is negated and could have fatal results.”

Figures indicate that carbon monoxide poisoning has caused more than 200 accidental deaths in England and Wales in the last decade.

An Amazon spokesman said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon. We require all products to comply with applicable laws and regulations and have developed industry-leading tools to prevent unsafe or non-compliant products from being listed in our stores.

“We have removed these products pending further investigation.”

Pic: Which?
Image:
Pic: Which?

An eBay spokesman said: “We take the safety of our users very seriously and immediately removed the listings reported to us by Which?

“We prohibit unbranded and unsafe brands of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. We only allow sellers to list approved brands of carbon monoxide detectors and have taken action against the sellers who breached this policy.

“We continuously review and update the measures in place to prevent the sale of unsafe products. We have also conducted further sweeps of our site to remove any similar listings.”

A Department for Business and Trade spokesman said: “We take public safety extremely seriously which is why we are consulting on modernising our product safety framework to hold online marketplaces to account, ensuring items sold online meet the same standards as on the high street.

“If businesses don’t comply with product safety regulations, the Office for Product Safety and Standards will take appropriate enforcement action such as ordering the removal of the product from the market.”

Dangerous plug-in heaters promoted in fake reviews and dodgy ads fail fire safety tests | UK News

Dangerous plug-in heaters are being sold online – taking advantage of those trying to stay warm despite surging energy bills, Which? says.

Some of the products were featured in fake reviews and dodgy ads, leaving people at risk of fires or electric shocks.

Ten mini plug-in heaters – some as cheap as £12 – were tested by Which? and all of them failed safety tests. Four of them – three on eBay and one on Amazon – were a fire risk.

All of the models tested did not meet the Electrical Equipment Safety Regulations.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said the products were illegal, could cause serious harm, and show that online platforms must do more to protect consumers.

She added: “The government must urgently legislate to strengthen product safety, including giving online marketplaces greater legal responsibility for unsafe products sold on their sites so that consumers are far better protected.

“Self-regulation of online platforms is simply not working. These platforms have put in place inadequate measures which leave consumers at risk. The government must give these platforms greater responsibility to protect people online.”

Among the problematic heaters was the Plug-In Wall Heater 500W sold by a third-party seller on eBay.

Which? said the plastic surround holding the heating element in place melted and the heating element slipped down to create another melted area, which was against the outer grill, meaning that touching it could result in shock or burns.

Several versions of this heater sold on Amazon, eBay and Wish all failed, and Trading Standards also issued a recall notice for another model sold on eBay that appeared to be identical.

An electric portable plug-in heater, sold on Amazon, had counterfeit fuses that had been used in the plug for the heater. They posed a risk of electric shock, fire or even an explosion, Which? said.

Another plug-in wall heater, sold on eBay, posed a risk of fire or electric shock, with internal wires soldered directly onto a circuit board, while another circuit board was just loose within the product.

An Amazon spokesperson said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon and we require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations.

“Two products were removed in December, including one in relation to safety concerns, and we have proactively removed similar items and introduced measures to prevent new products going on sale.

“We have removed the remaining two products while we investigate. If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

An eBay spokesperson said: “We take the safety of our users very seriously. We had already removed three of the five listings that Which? flagged to us. One of the two remaining listings is selling a different product and the other one has already ended.

“We use block filter algorithms aimed at preventing unsafe products from being listed. These filters blocked 4.8 million listings in 2022 and are updated on a regular basis.

“On the rare occasion that an unsafe product does make it on to site, we swiftly remove it and provide product safety education to the sellers to prevent relisting.”

Wish said: “Product safety is a top priority for Wish. The listing highlighted by Which? has been removed from our European platform, and we are monitoring for any identical or similar listings. We will take further action as appropriate.”

Google was asked for comment but had not provided one.