‘Cheap and cheerful’ Christmas lights bought online could cause a fire or electric shock, according to new research.
Testing by consumer group Which? found that six out of 13 sets of Christmas tree lights bought through online marketplace sellers failed the testing and were dangerous to use.
Which? carried out the tests according to the electrical safety standard – which products must pass to be sold in the UK – on 13 products purchased from third party sellers across four online marketplaces.
Two sets of lights, bought from AliExpress and eBay, got so hot during a short circuit test that they were “left charred and the printed circuit board was reduced to a molten plastic mess,” said Which?
Several of the products also presented an electric shock risk due to a number of factors including poor insulation, shoddily manufactured cables and control boxes, and illegal distances between the live and neutral parts of the circuit board.
Amazon (AMZN) Marketplace had the best results with five products from the online retailer passing all the electrical safety tests.
Christmas lights from high street retailers John Lewis and Argos also passed.
Which? is advising shoppers to only buy Christmas lights from the high street or a recognised retailer.
When shopping online Which? advises looking out for warning signs that products could be dodgy. These include lights packaged in plain plastic wrapping with no branding, as well as a lack of instructions. Price is also a factor – the worst performing lights, those where the control boxes melted, cost less than £5.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Many of the cheap and seemingly cheerful Christmas lights we’ve tested from online marketplaces simply aren’t safe, and we’ve found some even have the potential to set a tree alight.
“The significantly better performance of products bought from high street retailers exposes just how necessary it is to strengthen consumer protections for online marketplaces. The new government must make safety a priority and put the legal responsibility on marketplaces to prevent unsafe products from being sold on their sites.”
Which? also looked into whether the products had the correct markings and instructions required to be legally sold in the UK. It found that 12 of the 13 did not meet UK standards.
Only one set of lights bought from across the four online marketplaces passed all of the safety tests and a compliance check. These were purchased from Amazon Marketplace.
Both sets of lights bought from high street shops also met all UK standards as well as passing the safety tests.
The online platforms that were used to sell products that failed Which? test said in media statements they will take appropriate action.
Ebay said in a statement: “Ebay doesn’t permit the listing of unsafe products. The items have been removed and the sellers advised to contact buyers with the alert and their return policy.”
AliExpress said: “Customer safety is of paramount importance. We have informed the sellers and removed these listings. Merchants need to comply with all regulations in the markets they sell to.”
Amazon said: “All sellers must follow our guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available.”
Wish was yet to provide a comment.