Consumers warned over fire hazard Christmas tree lights bought online

19th Dec 2019

Consumers have been warned about the dangers of buying Christmas lights online, following a Which? investigation.

The consumer watchdog tested 13 products bought from third-party sellers across four online marketplaces, as well as two purchased from high street retailers.

Six of the light sets bought online failed testing and were considered dangerous. AliExpress, eBay and Wish each sold two sets of the failing products.

In two instances, control boxes on lights bought from AliExpress and eBay got so hot during a short circuit test they began to smoke and then melt. The insides were left charred and the printed circuit board was reduced to a molten plastic mess by the end of the test.

Several of the products also presented an electric shock risk. In an electrical strength test, the insulation in one control box for a set of lights bought from Wish broke down, making the whole unit live, meaning it would be a hazard for anyone who came into contact with it.

The same three products, bought from AliExpress, eBay and Wish, were so shoddily manufactured that, using minimum force, testers were able to pull the cable out of the control box – again increasing the risk of an electric shock.

Which? also checked if the products had the correct markings and instructions required to be legally sold in the UK. Nine of the 13 did not comply with the official standard. Three products that melted during the circuit test were so catastrophically damaged that a compliance check was not carried out.

The 12 unsafe or non-compliant products were purchased from third-party sellers across all four marketplaces. In total, just one set of lights bought from across the four online marketplaces passed all of the safety tests and a compliance check. These were purchased from Amazon Marketplace.

Natalie Hitchins, Head of Home Products and Services at Which?, said: “Many of the cheap and seemingly cheerful Christmas lights we’ve tested from online marketplaces simply aren’t safe, and we’ve found some even have the potential to set a tree alight.

“The significantly better performance of products bought from high street retailers exposes just how necessary it is to strengthen consumer protections for online marketplaces. The new government must make safety a priority and put the legal responsibility on marketplaces to prevent unsafe products from being sold on their sites.”

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