We are all familiar with our battery draining electrical devices and the typically low lifespan of the products’ chargers. Whilst we all love a bargain, the dangers surrounding low-cost, fake electrical chargers – which are typically being bought to replace the product’s genuine charger – are increasingly coming to prominence. According to the Electrical Safety Council, more than four million counterfeit goods were seized in the UK in 2012, with mobile phone chargers now one of the top electrical fakes. The chargers which often look like a branded phone charger are often fake and substandard. The Trading Standards Institute, for instance, alarmingly found that all of the unbranded chargers they tested failed to meet the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 and therefore posed serious safety risks.
At best, a fake charger is a waste of money. However, counterfeit electrical goods can damage the phone itself beyond repair and carry severe health and safety risks. At worst, phony chargers have resulted in house fires, severe injury and even death.
Whilst we are not suggesting that all unbranded chargers, which are typically cheaper than the manufacturers, are dangerous, caution should be exercised around them. Here is some advice to follow when buying a new phone charger:
In order to avoid buying a fake charger, it is advisable to buy chargers from the manufacturer of the electrical product or from a reputable bricks and mortar store or online retailer who makes the charger on behalf of the manufacturer.
One of the best ways to spot whether a charger is fake is the price. Whilst genuine branded chargers will retail for around £10-£30, counterfeit chargers are considerably cheaper, often selling from as little as £1.
UK and European Safety Standards
In the UK, when buying a charger you also need to look out for the two symbols which should be on anything you buy: the British Standards Institute Kitemark and the European Commission CE marking. These symbols confirm that the device has been tested and built in accordance with UK and European Law. However, it is not advisable to rely on these symbols alone as a guarantee of safety – they can easily be forged.
Voltage and Plug Fitting
The voltage of the charger should be 230v, 50HZ – the UK’s usual domestic voltage.
Chargers should also be fitted with a three-pin UK plug. Live plug pins are required to not be less than 9.5mm away from the edge of the plug face; if the peripheral distance is less than 9.5mm, there is a risk of electric shock. Chargers with incorrect plug pin alignment and oversized/ undersized pins which do not fit properly into UK sockets can cause overheating, arcing and additional damage to the socket.
It is advisable to check your charger against all of the criteria listed: simply checking it against one of the specifications is not adequate protection against a fake charger.
As always, when using electrical chargers, it is not advisable to charge items overnight. Chargers should also be kept away from flammable materials.
For further general information surrounding phone chargers, consult the Electrical Safety Council and if you are in doubt about the safety of your current charger, contact the manufacturer of the charger directly.
For the Apple device users amongst us, Apple also currently offer an amnesty charger agreement whereby if you have concerns about the safety of the charger for your Apple product, you can drop the charger off at an Apple Retail Store or at an Apple Authorised provider. On dropping the charger off, you can purchase a new charger for your device at a reduced cost.