Following a recent appliance safety campaign report that illustrated the low success rate for product recalls in the UK, the Electrical Safety Council has taken new measures to promote public awareness of the dangers these products can cause.

The report, titled Safer Reports, Better Business - A 360° Approach to Improving Electrical Appliance Safety, found that the average success rate for electrical recalls is a mere 10-20%. In the last six years, there have been over 250 product recalls, so with this figures in mind there are still hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous products still in circulation. Or worse, still being used in households!

Most products recalled are usually done so because the present a risk of fire or electrocution, with many of them items such as chargers or adaptors. Though the media may pay more attention to larger appliances (fridge freezers, dish washers etc.), these smaller things present exactly the same risks. 

The report also researched public attitude toward product recalls, and revealed two main obstacles - indifference and underestimation. It found that nearly two million adults have knowingly ignored a product recall in the past, with a further million admitting to currently owning an electrical item that has been recalled. It seems many people would rather jeopardise their safety instead of sending back that new HD television they bought to be replaced!

In order to make information about product recalls clearer and more readily available, the ESC has launched their own online product checker, where products can be searched by brand name, model number or product type. On top of this and an extensive media campaign, the ESC will also be working closely with manufacturers and retailers to develop new ways in improving recall rates.

The ESC product recall checker can be viewed HERE.

The Electrical Safety Council is calling for manufacturers to face tougher penalties if they undertake inadequate or slow recalls, following growing concerns over the effectiveness of the recall system and the emergence of a number of serious incidents involving recalled products.

Manufacturers who delay or take action in a recall situation currently face fines of only £5,000.

The ESC would like to see tougher penalties based on a percentage of profits from the recalled product, with a minimum level set at £5,000. This should ensure manufacturers react quickly and effectively should a recall situation arise.

The ESC is also inviting Trading Standards to set out clear and unambiguous guidelines on exactly what a manufacturer should do if they have produced a product that is subject to a recall. The ESC’s research shows that typically only 10-20% of recalled electrical products are ever returned, exposing millions of people in the UK to the risk of fire or electrocution. Over the last six years there have been 266 recall notices for electrical items.

In addition to the proposed change to fines, the Electrical Safety Council has today outlined proposals for a new centralised product registration system, coordinated by the charity, which could help manufacturers trace their products to the consumer in a recall situation.

At the moment only 5-10% of people fill in registration cards for new items because they are concerned about their information being used for marketing purposes and because they don’t understand the purpose of the cards. Yet over half of all the people that took part in the Electrical Safety Council’s research said they would be more likely to register products with an independent organisation, if their details were used only in the event of a recall and if they were assured their details wouldn’t be used for marketing purposes.

Do you fill in and send off the produce registration card? Or do you, like many people just throw it away? It’s there for a reason – keeping you and your families safe. Next time you purchase a new product do everyone a favour – FILL IN THE CARD AND SEND IT OFF!

- Mark Jenkins

It may be an apocryphal tale, but in the days of the Empire it is said that many passengers embarking for the tropics were persuaded to buy small packages labelled "Insect Destroyer", and further labelled with the instructions "do not open until required". When the packages were finally opened, it was discovered that they contained only two small blocks of wood and the instructions "Place the insect on one block and strike sharply with the other".

In these days of Consumer Protection and Trading Standards it might be hoped that this type of con is very much a thing of the past, but according to a report from the Electrical Safety Council, it is still very much with us. The latest manifestation is a range of "plug-in energy savers", normally sold over the internet pr at car boot sales.

These devices claim to save money on electricity bills by doing some kind of "conditioning" to the supply which makes appliances run more efficiently. This is nonsense. The Electrical Safety Council tested four different models, all of which actually increased power consumption rather than reducing it.

More worryingly, all the devices tested failed to meet basic product standards. In all cases the pin dimensions were not correct. This means that the device would be a loose fit in the socket-outlet, which would cause arcing and overheating. All the devices tested were also of poor internal construction, making them a fire hazard. Several of them were CE marked, but the poor quality of construction would suggest that these marks were almost certainly forgeries. 

There have been reports that these devices are also being sold over the phone. Many elderly people have been targeted by telephone sales calls purporting to originate with one of more of the energy suppliers. Often the caller has the persons' name and address, and on some occasions even part of their credit card number. These calls are bogus and originate overseas, many from a holding company in the USA.

If you should be offered one of these devices, Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) would like to know. You can also contact them on 0300 123 2040.

- Mark Jenkins

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