Millions of Brits may fall victim to scams this Black Friday as shoppers turn to online marketplaces in search of the 'best deal'.
Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue have issued a warning to shoppers to make sure they are being savvy online to avoid ending up with cheap, dangerous knock-offs.
As many as 9 million British consumers have bought fake electrical products as Christmas presents in the past, according to research by charity Electrical Safety First. These products are often shoddily made and can create a serious risk of injury or fire.
An estimated three in five of all counterfeit electrical sales take place on online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon, where one in five shoppers admit to spending absolutely no time assessing whether an electrical item is genuine. Over half of online shopper also admit to presuming goods they are buying online are genuine.
One in six consumers also said that they would consider buying a product they knew to be fake if it was cheaper than the original, while one in ten said they would consider buying a fake product if they had to get it by a certain date or the original was hard to come by due to high demand.
The fire service and Spot the Fake published the following tips on their website to avoid being caught out:
- Buy electrical products from reputable retailers. This way you can be assured you’re buying the real thing.
- Check prices and shop around! Check online shops and, if possible, visit the high street. Beware of "too good to be true" prices.
- Check that voltage is 230-240V, 50Hz, and that products are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger.
- When buying online, look for the padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in your payment details.
- Beware glowing reviews, especially if the reviewers aren’t verified.
- Beware of words qualifying an item’s authenticity. If the seller claims the product is ‘genuine’, ‘real’ or ‘authentic’, double-check the source. Most reputable retailers don’t need to sell their products like this.
- Look for the seller’s contact details - a full address, and not just a PO Box number. Not all websites with a .co.uk address are based in the UK.
- Read product guarantees, terms and conditions, and returns policies before you buy.
Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety team, said: "Fake electrical products appear more convincing than ever, but they can contain less than half the internal components required to run safely. Remember, if a bargain looks too good to be true, the chances are it probably is.”