The consumer watchdog tested Christmas tree lights at the cheaper end of the price range – all £15 or under – bought from online marketplaces AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish, and found that 10 of the 12 sets of lights bought failed to meet the requirements of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) regulations and could not legally be sold in the UK.
These latest findings further support Which?’s calls for online marketplaces to be given greater legal responsibility to prevent dangerous and illegal products being sold on their sites.
One set of lights bought from a seller on Wish was so badly made that it posed both an electric shock risk to anyone using it and was also a fire hazard. The Fairy LED string lights, costing £13, had problems with the cable, the control box and the plug.
The build quality was so poor that the white control box could easily be pulled apart by a child, exposing accessible live parts. Wires could be pulled out by hand with little force.
The product was also marked as being waterproof, but Which? found no evidence of this when it took it to pieces and examined the components.
Another set of lights bought from a seller on AliExpress for £13.23 were so poorly manufactured that they could give anyone using them an electric shock.
Which? found poor-quality soldering and a transformer that did not meet the minimum requirements for creepage and clearance distances, which is the space between the live and neutral sections of the circuit board. This means the lights present an electric shock hazard for users.
The pins on the plug were too short and there were numerous problems with the packaging, markings and documents provided. Finally, during Which?’s electrical strength test, the lights blew. These lights are illegal to sell in the UK and dangerous.
Ten of the 12 sets of Christmas lights Which? tested – including two from Amazon and two from eBay – failed compliance checks and cannot be sold legally in the UK. They failed to come with instructions or were missing key markings covering things like how to dispose of the lights and what their electrical ratings are.
Only two sets of lights, one bought from Amazon and one from eBay, passed all of Which?’s tests and are legal to be sold and safe to use.
AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish all said that they had removed the products found to be illegal for sale from their platforms.
Which?’s latest research highlights why online platforms need to be given greater legal responsibility for unsafe and illegal products on their sites so consumers have better protection from being harmed.
Says Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, said:
“Cheap Christmas lights could be tempting for many of us trying to save money amid the cost of living crisis – but our latest research shows consumers could be putting themselves in danger due to online marketplaces failing to take safety seriously.
“The government must make online marketplaces legally responsible for dangerous and illegal products sold through their sites so that people are better protected.”