Don’t pull the plug on Christmas this year

hoverboard-fire-investigation-20151203
Charred remains of a hoverboard (courtesy of London Fire Brigade)

In the run-up to Christmas the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is alerting people to potential issues with electrical goods. Just take a few moment to double check the gifts you are giving – and the gifts you and your family receive.

As buying online becomes ever more popular there has been a considerable increase in the number of poor quality and counterfeit electrical items being sold. Items such as hair straighteners, mobile phones and chargers are the most common culprits.

The Electrical Safety First website has a useful guide on what to look out for when buying or receiving electrical gifts.

If in doubt don’t use the item. More than 7,000 house fires occur in the UK due to electrical appliances and fire services have reported a number of home fires caused by fake electrical goods this year.

This warning comes hot on the heels of the recent reports of fires caused by ‘hoverboards’. In the space of ten days in October, London Fire Brigade attended three house fires caused by the boards.

Andy Reynolds, CFOA’s Electrical Safety Lead, warned: “We have seen these items cause devastating fires, destroying homes and leaving hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage in their wake.

“It is essential if you have received or bought one of these you check it meet the correct standards. Most people will think ‘it won’t happen to me’ but we have already seen a number of fires occur.

“We have seen examples of where these have been supplied with plugs which are not designed for use in Britain, with no fuses and a higher risk of overheating. Usually a fuse will ‘blow’ if there is a fault, cutting off the electricity supply.

“Please check instructions which should detail which fuse is it has. If you have no instructions I would urge absolute caution and recommend you return the item.”

Check the voltage of products is 230V, 50Hz (the UK’s usual domestic voltage) and that they are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger that is marked as conforming to British Standard BS 1363.

If a fire does break out, people should switch off the mains supply immediately if it is safe to do so, vacate the property and then call the fire service.

Trading Standards advice includes:

  • Never leave the device charging unattended, especially overnight. A faulty cut-off switch means it could overheat
  • Check the plug. Many faulty devices have a “clover-shaped” plug
  • If buying online, be careful to check the website is genuine and has a contactable phone number and address
  • Don’t be dazzled by prices which seem too low

Anyone who finds such products for sale is being urged to contact the Citizens Advice helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

The self balancing scooters were one of this year’s must have Christmas gifts and it is estimated that about half a million have been bought as gifts. They usually sell from £250 to £700 so it is very tempting to hunt around on the internet for a bargain.

National Trading Standards testing found 88% of the boards tested since October being imported in the UK were deemed unsafe. If you have bought one, take a look at the Electrical Safety First website for some advice about this product.

However, even if you feel you have purchased a hoverboard from a trusted retailer please double check that yours is not one which has been involved in some of the many product recalls.

Amazon contacted customers who bought boards with UK non-compliant plugs to ask them to dispose of them for a full refund. Further safety advice was offered for those consumers that bought boards with UK compliant plugs.

As a precautionary measure major high street retailers have asked consumers to return some products. These include John Lewis, Halfords and  Argos.

Further advice for owners of these products not included in any recall is to be extra careful when charging the device. This includes not leaving it charge overnight or unattended.

This advice is worth following when charging items such as mobile phones, tablets and e-cigs. Not only is there a risk when using an unbranded or cheap charger but also electronic items should not be charged for longer than necessary.

EE has issued a product recall for the EE Power Bar. The Power Bars were given out free to EE, Orange and T-Mobile customers in 2015 and is a charging gadget which allows users to charge a flat smartphone battery.

There had been a previous recall of a single batch of the Power Bars but this has been extended and all power bars should now be returned. It is estimated that there are 1.5million  of the devices in circulation.

Power Bars can be returned to any EE high street store or call 0800 079 0305. Eligible customers will be given a £20 voucher to redeem on EE accessories online.

Reputable retailers will recall any devices with problems. By buying cheaply or from obscure online retailers you really are risking your Christmas going up in smoke.

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