A warning has been issued over ‘unsafe’ electric heaters which are being sold on social media apps like TikTok and Temu.
Consumer group Which? found several products which they say could explode, cause electric shocks or start house fires.
The watchdog tested eight heaters costing as little as £7.20 and determined six were electrically unsafe.
Three out of the five heaters bought through TikTok were ‘dangerously unsafe’ and the instructions for a fourth were lacking key safety warnings, while all three heaters bought through Temu were considered dangerous.
The names of the products affected were XH-1201 1200W portable electric heater, X7 portable space heater and NFJ004 portable electric heater, among others.
When Which? searched for ‘electric heaters’ on TikTok, five videos within the first 100 results promoted the dangerous products and were marked as ‘paid partnership’ or similar. The videos had more than 100,000 views between them.
Which? head of consumer protection policy Sue Davies said: ‘Cheap electric heaters are a tempting purchase for consumers struggling during the cold winter months, but our latest tests have revealed that models sold on TikTok and Temu are a serious safety risk and must be avoided at all costs.
‘It’s vital that the government urgently gives greater legal responsibility to online marketplaces for unsafe products so that they are forced to take action to prevent dangerous products ending up in people’s homes.’
Which? recently found around 2.8 million people in the UK made a purchase through TikTok in 2023, while 8.2 million bought through Temu, an online marketplace app.
Both apps confirmed they have removed all heaters that failed the testing, along with 27 other similar listings – but Which? said new listings keep appearing.
TikTok said in a statement: ‘TikTok uses a combination of technology and manual moderation to enforce our policies for TikTok Shop.
‘If TikTok finds merchants or products that violate their policies, they remove them.’
How to make safer electrical purchases online
Don’t buy on price alone – not all bargains are worth it
Some fakes are for sale just below the recommended retail value, hoodwinking shoppers that are too savvy to fall for the ‘too good to be true’ deals. Make sure you do your homework if you decide to buy products below high street retail prices.
Don’t just take the seller’s word for it – or the reviewer’s
Beware of a product with solely glowing reviews, especially if the reviewers aren’t verified. Some sites cross-reference user reviews with their buyer database and label those people as ‘verified purchasers’.
Know where you’re buying from
Make sure you know where the supplier is based, a ‘co.uk’ URL doesn’t guarantee the website is UK based.
If there is no address supplied, or there is just a PO Box, be wary; many substandard electrical goods are manufactured overseas, where they will not be safety tested and are produced as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Beware of words qualifying an item’s authenticity
If the seller claims the product is ‘genuine’, ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ double check the source. Most reputable retailers don’t need to sell their products like this.
Stick to reputable retailers you know and trust
This is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself safe.
Temu said: ‘We deeply regret any concern or inconvenience caused by the safety issues identified in four electric heaters on our platform. The safety of our customers is our highest priority, and we have taken immediate action to address this issue.
‘Temu operates a marketplace for independent third-party sellers who must adhere to strict compliance and legal standards before listing their products. In instances of non-compliance, we act swiftly to investigate and take necessary measures to protect our customers, which may include product removals and seller account terminations.’
Charity Electrical Safety First warned online marketplaces currently pass responsibility for safety to sellers who are not covered by UK laws, and like Which?, called on the government to amend this.
Chief executive Lesley Rudd said: ‘New platforms for shoppers are contributing to dangerous products flooding the market, worsening the problem every day and leaving more shoppers exposed to unsafe goods.
‘The way we shop has changed, possibly forever, yet it is utterly illogical that our laws have not, leaving people shopping on these online platforms grossly unprotected from dangerous electrical products.
‘Influencers promoting goods on platforms also have a moral duty to their followers to ensure what they are promoting is safe or risk exposing them to dangerous products.’
The Department for Business and Trade said it ‘continues to take action against unsafe products sold online and those who sell them, including through the use of intelligence to disrupt their supply’, and said manufacturers and suppliers are responsible for the safety of products.
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