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Amazon, eBay and AliExpress urged to do more to stop sales of dangerous items

·Reporter
·3-min read
Online platforms Amazon, eBay and AliExpress said they had removed the listings reported to them by Which?. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty
Online platforms Amazon, eBay and AliExpress said they had removed the listings reported to them by Which?. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty

Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY) and AliExpress have been told to take more responsibility and carry out better checks after an investigation discovered illegal items being sold on the platforms.

An investigation by Which? found illegal weapons are being sold by third-party sellers on the online marketplaces including AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wish.

UK law including the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 prohibits the sale of these weapons in the country.

The rules also state that these items cannot even be owned in a private home. If a person were to be caught with one of these products, they could face arrest and a prison sentence.

"It is disturbing that our latest investigation has uncovered illegal weapons being sold on online marketplaces at extraordinarily cheap prices and that these tech firms are also pushing additional dangerous items to people," Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at Which? said. "This raises big question marks over the checks and monitoring being done by these platforms."

"It’s clear that online marketplaces need to take more responsibility and prevent illegal weapons appearing on their sites."

Read more: Google and Samsung smart products easy target for hackers, Which? study finds

Which? said it had carried out simple searches for banned offensive weapons on popular online marketplaces, including zombie and flick knives, swords and batons.

On all four platforms, additional banned weapons were recommended by the platforms’ algorithms after Which?’s initial searches for weapons, the consumer group said.

"Worryingly, this suggests the marketplaces are not only facilitating the sale of illegal products but perpetuating the problem by recommending other illegal or dangerous products to users," Which? said.

Which? said it was easy to find one or more of these potentially lethal items on the respective platforms, at affordable prices from as little as 50p.

Watch: The risks of buying now and paying later

Searching on AliExpress, it found a "large number of flick knives, hidden blades, and a raft of ‘self-defence rings’" designed to be worn as knuckle dusters, with one priced just 49p.

On Amazon Which? found over a dozen listings for friction lock batons "masquerading" as "trekking poles".

It is illegal to buy and sell friction lock batons, which are considered to be offensive weapons, in the UK.

According to the group, some of the listings used special characters, such as "bătõň", in the title or only used the word baton in the artwork.

The consumer group added this was presumably to avoid detection by Amazon, while some of the images on the listings indicated that they could be used for self-defence and fighting.

Read more: Nintendo Switch fault plagues consumers, Which? warns

Which?’s experts also discovered a variety of illegal swords, zombie knives, and knuckle dusters on eBay, including a 23-inch steel serrated-edged zombie knife (£27) and a 27-inch zombie blade with a red fire design (£32). EBay's terms and conditions state that none of these weapons should be sold on its platform.

Researchers also found several belt buckle knives priced from £8 on Wish, and a number of concealed blades, including a £1 knife designed to be hidden inside a wallet.

Amazon and eBay told the group they had removed all the listings reported to them by Which?. Wish said it is in the process of removing the reported listings.

Amazon said it would take "appropriate enforcement" against the baton sellers, eBay said it was investigating why the items were not blocked to UK buyers and Wish said it was "exploring remedial action against any offending merchants".

AliExpress said it had removed the listings. However, Which? said has received two further promotional emails from AliExpress since its initial response.

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