By Eloise Evans on 23/11/2016

As Christmas creeps closer, so does the danger of fake electrical goods. Christmas is an expensive time – you buy gifts for pretty much everyone you know and finding deals is always a great money saving success. However, not all of those deals are what they seem! Nowadays it’s even harder what with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as you really have to look closely to tell the real deal from the fraud.

Electrical Safety First warns all shoppers to try to #SpotTheFake and watch out for the tell-tale signs of an unsafe electrical product. They found that around nine million UK shoppers have purchased a fake electrical product as a Christmas present. These fake products have been known to not function properly, cause electric shock, catch fire and even explode.

Mr. Electric did some research on a couple of popular electrical gifts for Christmas and found some scary stuff.

  • A pair of Beats Solo 3 Wireless Headphones from the official Dr Dre website costs £249.95, whereas the same item from a different online store (ilgs.net) costs £235.72, meaning a saving of £14.23 from the other online shop.

This seems like a small enough saving that it would have to be the real deal, right? Well, this isn’t always the case. Certain scam sights and sellers know that many people are too clever to go for the ‘too-good-to-be-true’ deal, so they price items just under the official price so it simply looks like a good deal. These cheaper products could be the real deal, but you can never be sure until you have already received your item. Even if you receive something and then realise it's fake or unsafe, it’s not always easy to get your money back.

For example, when we searched TrustPilot for ilgs.net (the site we found cheaper Beats headphones from), it came up with some pretty bad reviews. People had complained of faulty products being sent out, products never even arriving and report shocking customer service. When people asked for refunds, they had to pay extra money for this, spoke to unhelpful staff, and some people didn’t even get a response. It wasn’t just faulty products however, people had issues with them taking the money and then charging extra for a more expensive item as the original was no longer in stock.

These reviews go to show that saving that extra £14.23 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For all the hassle that these customers experienced, they would most likely have preferred to pay a little bit more and buy from an official retailer. With sites like these, you can never be sure that you are getting the real thing or that you are purchasing from a trustworthy company. If you purchase from official and trusted retailers, you can guarantee the safety of the products you are buying.

You may think it is easy to spot the difference between a fake and the real thing, but the research done by Electrical Safety First begs to differ. They found that between images of genuine products and fake products, three-quarters of consumer were not able to identify genuine GHD hair straighteners. Three in five could also not tell the difference between a real and a fake Apple charger, and over half said that they would likely buy a product described as ‘genuine’, ‘real’ or ‘authentic’.

From Electrical Safety First, here is some advice to #SpotTheFake when buying electrical items:

Spotting a fake before you buy:

  • If the price is cheaper than official retailers, either by a little or a lot, they could be fakes. Make sure you research sites before buying anything.
  • Don’t simply listen to what the site says, or even the reviewers for that matter. A genuine website is bound to have both good and bad reviews. If a site has no bad reviews and only great ones, beware - they could be fake, even if they say they are verified purchasers.
  • Beware of words such as ‘authentic’, ‘genuine’ or ‘real’. If the site has to state that it is a genuine product, it probably isn’t. A retailer like John Lewis wouldn’t need to prove they are selling the real thing.
  • Check where the supplier is based before buying anything. Just because it is a ‘.co.uk’ URL does not mean it is based in the UK. If there is no address or just a PO Box it might be based overseas, meaning it won’t have passed our UK safety standards and may not be safe.
  • Check for the padlock when paying. If you go through to a safe checkout, you will see a padlock either at the bottom or the top of the browser. If there is no padlock, do not put in your payment details.

Spotting the fake after you have bought it:

  • If it has flimsy packaging or substandard printing, such as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, it could be a fake. Compare your product to a picture on official retailers’ sites to see if there is any difference.
  • Look for a safety certification label. Every legitimate electrical product will have at least one safety certification label, maybe more, so anything without one will be fake and not safe. Make sure that the safety certification is on both the packaging and the product, and beware of false safety labels. If the printing isn’t great or they don’t look genuine, they could be fake.
  • Make sure you have everything that should be there. Fake products may not have a manual, a product registration card or even all the parts!
  • Make sure the product has a three pin UK plug or charger.
  • If you still feel uneasy about your purchase, trust your instinct. If you don’t feel like your product is 100% safe, compare it to the same item in the high street and if it varies in any way, don’t use it.

If you know you’ve bought a fake item:

  • If you have proof that your item is fake, contact the supplier immediately and demand an explanation. If they have made a mistake somewhere along the way, they can explain it now.
  • Demand a refund – you have the legal right to if you have bought a fake item. However, make sure you stay civil and calm. When you buy things from unknown source, try to use credit cards or PayPal as you are likely to be insured if the supplier will not refund you.
  • If the seller refuses to give you a refund, contact the retailer that manages the marketplace (such as Amazon) as they can intervene on your behalf. If they cannot help or you bought from a separate website, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03444 111 444.
  • Try to leave feedback to let other people know. Although this may not help you, it’ll stop other people buying and using unsafe products.
  • If you know a product is fake, report it to Trading Standards so that they can take action against the seller. Selling fake products is illegal and can out people at risk.

Visit Electrical Safety First to read more about Safe Shopping and Black Friday dangers. Make sure to download the ‘Buying Electrical Goods Online’ document on the #SpotTheFake article.