HoverboardWhy cheap counterfeits could cost you dearly when it comes to fire safety You might have seen reports in the news recently about the dangers posed by counterfeit electrical goods and the number of fakes flooding into the UK. There’s been a great deal of publicity about counterfeit hoverboards, the ‘must have’ present this Christmas, and the fire and explosion risks they potentially present. While there’s no doubt it becomes an even bigger issue at Christmas, it’s not only this time of year when people and businesses look for what they think is value for money when it comes to buying electrical goods. A growing and dangerous market But this desire for cheaper goods is driving an alarming rise in the number of counterfeit and fake products available. The market for counterfeit goods in the UK is thought to be worth more than £1.3 billion per year; most of these items are bought at local markets or online. Trading standards officers are seizing more than 6500 items a day. Estimates suggest counterfeiting has grown by 10,000% over the last 20 years as manufacturing becomes cheaper and easier. This is really worrying when it comes to fire safety The ever-increasing demand for cheap electrical goods means the fire safety risks are increasing too. Almost all counterfeits use substandard materials and components as well as poor manufacturing techniques. Product safety standards and tests are completely disregarded (as is the need for safe working conditions and environmental considerations). Some fakes are easy to spot. The poor build quality may be obvious. Major grammatical or spelling errors on the packaging can be another giveaway. But electronic counterfeits are becoming increasingly sophisticated and some are impossible to detect by appearance alone. Many carry fake safety symbols too. Who are you buying from and are they legitimate? Whether it’s a personal or a business purchase the single most effective thing you can do is buy electrical goods from reputable retailers. Yes, it may cost more than the one you spotted on ebay but that’s because you’re paying for a product that’s been properly constructed and subjected to vital safety tests.  And do you really want to contribute to a market that’s not only increasing fire risks but crime too? According to Electrical Safety First an estimated £900 million of the UK’s market for counterfeit goods helps fund organised crime. Are your electrical items around your home and business fire-safe? While you’re (hopefully) convinced when it comes to buying new electrical goods, what about the electrical items you already own?  Firstly, it’s worth knowing the early warning signs of electrical faults. Don’t leave electrical products in use (where possible) or charging when you’re not around or when you’re asleep. Product recalls Secondly, bear in mind that even when you’ve bought from a reputable retailer, things can still go wrong. There’s widespread counterfeiting of very low-cost components like plug fuses and unfortunately once they’re in the supply chain they can end up in products sold by legitimate retailers. As a result those products have to be recalled.  Of course, things can go wrong for other reasons too. For example there’s currently a tumble dryer recall for Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 due to the fire risk from fluff coming into contact with heating elements. The problem with product recalls is that their success rate is low – rarely more than 10-20%. It’s partly because a lot of people never register their product with the manufacturer.  Many consumers view registration as being about warranties and a ploy to end up on the company’s marketing database rather than as a safety precaution to increase traceability should a problem develop. That means there could be millions of items in homes and businesses with the potential to start fires. Registering can help with the counterfeiting problem too. Some manufacturers are now using anti-counterfeiting identification stickers on the packaging with a unique QR code hidden under a scratch-off panel on the sticker. The code takes you to the manufacturer’s official site to register immediately and to know your product is genuine. You can keep track of recalls (including counterfeits) on Electrical Safety First’s website. If you haven’t registered domestic appliances in the past you can also visit Register My Appliance to upload details and to be kept informed of any problems or product recalls. Support the legitimate businesses One final point. Consumer demand for cheap fake goods ends up costing reputable companies and traders dearly as they lose customers to the counterfeiters. And no-one wants to see businesses struggling to keep going because they take safety seriously. So support them while protecting yourself and those around you and have a very happy and safe Christmas.