Posted: Fri 11th Aug 2023

Dangerous’ carbon monoxide alarms sold through online marketplaces, Which? finds

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Aug 11th, 2023

Consumer watchdog Which? has raised the alarm about potentially fatal carbon monoxide (CO) alarms being sold on major online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, AliExpress, and Wish.

The alarming findings have reignited concerns about the government’s delay in tackling unsafe products online, with effective regulations potentially delayed until after the next general election.

Which? purchased and tested various low-cost CO alarms from sellers on these platforms and discovered a severe risk that they might fail to alert households to the lethal, odourless gas that has caused more than 200 accidental deaths in England and Wales in the last decade.

At least 1,311 of the dangerous alarms have already been purchased from eBay alone. The models were all unbranded and made in China, some of which were sold for as little as £5.

Alarmingly, one of the models was flagged to eBay by Which? seven years ago, yet this year’s tests reveal that it still cannot be relied on. It failed in 10 out of 28 CO detection tests and was far too quiet when it did sound.

Which? found a total of 149 listings for unsafe CO alarms across the online marketplaces, all of which have been removed after being flagged.

UK Government’s Delayed Response

Last week, the government provided an update on its long-delayed product safety review but failed to assure that an independent regulator would be given the necessary powers to crack down on unsafe products online.

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Protection Policy, said, “The government cannot delay any longer. It must move at pace to establish new regulations that put consumer safety first and enable tough enforcement action against online marketplaces that break the rules.”

The online marketplaces have responded swiftly to the revelations. eBay stated that it takes the safety of its users seriously, Amazon emphasized safety as its top priority, while AliExpress and Wish reiterated their commitment to product safety and compliance with local laws.

In contrast to the dangerous unbranded alarms, Which? also tested 10 CO alarms from leading brands, such as FireAngel, Firehawk, Kidde, and Google (Nest), all of which detected the killer gas every time, regardless of concentration.

A Personal Tragedy Illustrates the Danger

The investigation touched on the tragic story of Katie Haines, who died of CO poisoning at her home. Her family set up the Katie Haines Memorial Trust to raise awareness about the dangers of CO.

Her mother, Avril, emphasized the urgent need to purchase CO alarms from reputable manufacturers and retailers, warning, “If the alarm is not to standard, this defence is negated and could have fatal results.”

While the government is consulting on some positive measures, the focus on easing ‘burdens on business’ has highlighted the need for an independent UK product safety regulator that puts consumer interests first.

Which? continues to advocate for faster establishment of regulations that enable strong enforcement action, including heavy fines against online marketplaces breaking the rules.

 

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