Unbranded smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors sold on eBay are ‘putting lives at risk’

eBay is ‘putting lives at risk’ by selling unbranded smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors that fail basic safety tests, Which? investigation reveals

  •  eBay listed for sale hundreds of unreliable smoke alarms and CO detectors
  • Which? investigation found examples of devices that failed basic safety tests
  • Seven CO alarms are unable to detect the presence of gas reliably, study found 
  • Four unbranded smoke alarms failed to detect smoke in tests 

Ebay could be putting lives at risk by listing for sale hundreds of unsafe smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, a consumer watchdog has found.

A Which? investigation found examples of unbranded devices on the online auction site that failed basic smoke and gas tests. 

Seven unbranded CO alarms available on eBay were unable to detect the presence of gas reliably. They made up 91 of the cheapest 200 carbon monoxide detectors on the website.

Four unbranded smoke alarms failed to detect smoke in tests. These made up 50 of the 200 cheapest alarms for sale. 

A Which? investigation found examples of unbranded devices (pictured) on the online auction site that failed basic smoke and gas tests

Seven unbranded CO alarms available on eBay were unable to detect the presence of gas reliably. They made up 91 of the cheapest 200 carbon monoxide detectors on the website

Seven unbranded CO alarms available on eBay were unable to detect the presence of gas reliably. They made up 91 of the cheapest 200 carbon monoxide detectors on the website

Which? said that 50 of the CO alarms listed on the site were the same as those the watchdog had alerted them too three years ago for being unsafe.

And 34 of the smoke alarms were for an alarm that had been flagged to the site twice before – first in 2018, and then in May 2019. 

Which? said that while eBay removed the listings for the dangerous products each time it was notified, many have simply reappeared for sale.

Following the investigation, eBay has removed 141 alarm listings that Which? identified. All of the alarms were unbranded.

Following the investigation, eBay has removed 141 alarm listings that Which? identified (pictured, one example). All of the alarms were unbranded

Following the investigation, eBay has removed 141 alarm listings that Which? identified (pictured, one example). All of the alarms were unbranded

eBay said it works with Trading Standards to ensure listings are legal and has asked sellers to warn buyers and issue refunds. 

As well as eBay, Which? has found that other marketplaces are also failing to take steps to stop dangerous alarms being listed.

Despite alerting Wish – a US shopping website and app known for selling heavily-discounted products from China – to unsafe smoke alarms available on its site in May 2019, when Which? carried out a follow up check it found 125 of the cheapest 200 CO alarms, and 27 of the cheapest 200 smoke alarms, were the same as the ones that had failed its tests.

Wish has said it is working on removing the products from the platform.

AliExpress listed 134 dangerous CO alarms among the cheapest 200 on its site. The situation was just as bad for smoke alarms, with 163 dangerous alarms listed in its most affordable 200. The company has now removed these products from sale.

eBay said it works with Trading Standards to ensure listings are legal and has asked sellers to warn buyers and issue refunds

eBay said it works with Trading Standards to ensure listings are legal and has asked sellers to warn buyers and issue refunds

Which? said Amazon ‘appears to have taken effective steps to address the problem.’ In 2016, Which? found a comparable number of dodgy alarms listed on the site as eBay, but now they’ve all but disappeared – with only one discovered during the consumer champion’s most recent check, which it removed from sale. 

Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, said: ‘It’s a scandal that – even after three years of warnings – eBay still can’t manage to get a grip on preventing potentially lethal products from being sold on its site.

‘Other online marketplaces are just as bad. These platforms need to wake up and make the safety of their customers the top priority, with a much more rigorous approach to keeping these products out of people’s homes.

‘Unsafe products are now flooding online marketplaces. The OPSS must act to ensure these sites are more effectively policed to stem the toxic tide of dodgy goods.’  

Anyone who thinks they have one of these alarms in their home should stop using it immediately. 

Which? is calling on the online marketplaces to end the reliance on sellers notifying buyers and to directly contact everyone who has purchased one of these products to alert them and to explain how they can get their money back. 

A spokesman for eBay said: ‘Sellers aren’t permitted to list dangerous products. 

‘The safety of our customers is paramount and we work closely with bodies including Trading Standards to quickly remove reported listings along with similar listings while ensuring sellers comply with the law. 

‘The listings highlighted have been removed and we have required the sellers to contact the buyers with a safety warning and to issue refunds.’ 

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