Online marketplaces failing to remove dangerous products, reports Which?

Amazon, eBay, News

Online marketplaces are failing to respond adequately to reports about dangerous products and allowing them to remain on sale even when they have been recalled, a Which? investigation has revealed.  

The consumer watchdog’s research found that, eBay and Wish were all allowing dangerous products to be sold that have been banned Europe-wide. Yet when Which? researchers went undercover to report these products in the same way that an everyday consumer would, not one of the items was removed from sale.

People are more reliant on shopping online than ever this winter and Which? is calling for the government to make online marketplaces legally responsible for stopping dangerous products from being sold on their sites, so that consumers are protected from products with serious safety flaws being sold by third-parties. 

Which? searched on Safety Gate, a database of dangerous consumer products from across Europe that have been identified as posing a safety risk to consumers, and found nine products that were still available to order from online marketplaces including, eBay and Wish.

It proved difficult to report these banned items effectively. Amazon and eBay have reporting tools on their product listings, but Which?’s experts struggled to find a clear option for reporting a safety issue – instead it found ways to report issues like ‘incorrect product information’ or ‘prohibited items’. In the end, they plumped for reporting as a ‘product quality issue’ and ‘fraudulent listing activities’. 

When Which? replicated the reporting process that an everyday consumer might use, using pseudonyms, no action was taken by either online marketplace.

Researchers did receive a response from Wish – it said that it would review the report to see if the product listing breached its policies. However, there was no further response from Wish and, nearly a month later, the listing for the dangerous recalled product remained live.

Only after the issues were reported to the firms’ respective press offices by Which? was action quickly taken to remove the products. 

These sites have all signed up to the EU’s product safety pledge, which states that marketplaces should provide a clear way for customers to notify them of dangerous product listings and give an appropriate response within five working days. However, these findings suggest they are falling short – raising questions about the effectiveness of voluntary initiatives. 

Even when Which? experts have reported dangerous items to online marketplaces in an official capacity and the sites have taken the listings down, they have often reappeared in new listings within days. 

Earlier this year, eBay pledged to investigate multiple listings for three dangerous, recalled counterfeit Samsung charging plugs that were found for sale on the site. According to eBay’s own listing information, more than 360 of the chargers had been bought across five of the listings and Which? was able to buy these dangerous plugs without receiving any recall information or warnings from the sellers.

However, seven months later,  Which? found hundreds of listings for the chargers still on sale. eBay has now removed the specific listings that Which? shared but a number of other listings still appear to remain on the site.  

Says Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services:

“Our investigation suggests many customer reports of dangerous products for sale online could end up being ignored or disregarded, and that it can be difficult to report products accurately in the first place. 

“It is unacceptable that the biggest online marketplaces only seem to take safety concerns seriously when a watchdog like Which? comes calling.

“That’s why it’s vitally important for online marketplaces to be given greater legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites, to ensure that they take proactive action to protect their customers.”

Replies an Amazon spokesperson said:

“Safety is our top priority and we want customers to shop with confidence on our stores. We have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns. 

“When appropriate, we remove a product from the store, reach out to sellers, manufacturers, and government agencies for additional information, or take other actions. If customers have concerns about an item they’ve purchased, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service directly so we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

Which? advice on how to avoid fake and dangerous products

  • Deals that look too good to be true, often are – many of the dangerous safety issues found by Which? have been discovered on cheap products bought online.

  • Stick to known brands – the majority of problems we’ve found come from unknown brands, or unbranded products.

  • Do your research – it’s worth putting the time in before you buy, and don’t just rely on high customer review scores which can be artificially inflated on the marketplaces.

For more tips on shopping safely online this winter visit:

The nine banned products, according to Safety Gate, that Which? found were available for sale on online marketplaces  


Risk of product with same characteristics according to Safety Gate

Which? found these products were available on

Grow Snow Insta-Snow Powder

The powder expands by more than 50%. If a child puts the powder in the mouth and swallows it, it could cause occlusion of the respiratory tract or intestinal blockage.

Zviku Magnetic Light Up Fishing Baby Bath Toys Set for Toddlers – Includes Rod & Reel with Turtle and 5 Unique Fish

The magnet can easily detach from the toy, and a small child may put it in their mouth and choke.

WOW! Stuff Collection Harry Potter Golden Snitch Heliball

The remote control’s battery compartment can be easily opened without the use of any tools, leaving button batteries accessible. A child could put them in the mouth, which could cause damage to the child’s gastrointestinal tract or choking

Shadowhawk Rechargeable Tactical X800 Flashlight*

The clearance and creepage distances between the primary and accessible secondary circuit are not sufficient. The user could touch accessible live parts and receive an electric shock.



One Step – Hair Dryer and Styler

The resistance of the mains cable is too high. The product could overheat, melt or even catch fire during use.


Samsung EP-TA20EWE (counterfeit)

The clearance/creepage distances between the primary and accessible secondary circuits are not sufficient. The secondary part of the USB charger could become live, leading to an electric shock if touched by the user.


Samsung ETAOU10EBE (counterfeit)

The clearance/creepage distances between the primary and accessible secondary circuits are not sufficient. The secondary part of the USB charger could become live, leading to an electric shock if touched by the user.


Samsung ETA-U90EWE (counterfeit)

The clearance/creepage distances between the primary and accessible secondary circuits are not sufficient. The secondary part of the USB charger could become live, leading to an electric shock if touched by the user.


Surker professional hair clipper

The product is advertised with a substandard adaptor for permanent use with inadequate insulation. As a result, a person could touch the live part of the adaptor and receive an electric shock.


* A version of this product is still available to buy on Amazon but Amazon has provided documentation to show that the product has been re-manufactured and passed relevant safety tests.

Chris Price
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