Shoppers have been warned not to buy Christmas lights online that could spark fires or cause electric shocks.
Consumer experts Which? tested a range of bargain Christmas lights costing under £15 from AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish.
They found many were unsafe to use, with ten of 12 sets failing to meet the Electrical Equipment (Safety) regulations.
Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy, said: “Cheap Christmas lights could be tempting for many of us trying to save money amid the cost of living crisis – but our latest research shows consumers could be putting themselves in danger due to online marketplaces failing to take safety seriously.
Items Which? tested included fairy LED string lights from Wish, which cost £13.
They found it had problems with the cable, the control box and the plug – which puts buyers at risk of an electric shock when plugged in.
The lights also claim to be waterproof, but there was no evidence found to prove that was the case.
Wish said: “Product safety is a top priority for Wish, and we have clear policies in place that prohibit the listing or sale of items on our platform that violate local or other applicable laws, regulations, and/or safety standards.
“As soon as we were made aware of these unsafe items being listed on our platform, we took immediate steps to take them down and conduct monitoring over certain other identical merchant listings.”
Another set of lights was tested from AliExpress for £13.23 – but Which? found they could give anyone an electric shock because they were so poorly manufactured.
AliExpress said: “The items identified as part of the investigation by Which? have been removed.
“We have reviewed similar product listings to ensure sellers have provided the correct information and paperwork.
“As a third-party marketplace, AliExpress does not take custody of the goods being sold by third party sellers.
“We have policies in place that all our sellers must comply with in order to create a safe shopping environment.”
Ten sets of lights including one bought on Amazon and another bought on eBay, failed tests too
Just two sets of lights, one bought from Amazon and one from eBay, passed all safety checks and were deemed legal to be sold in the UK.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon and we require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations.
“We have proactive measures in place to prevent non-compliant items from being listed and we continuously monitor our store so customers can shop with confidence.”
And an eBay spokesperson said: “We take the safety of our users very seriously, and we have removed the listings that Which? flagged to us.
“Our close working relationships with stakeholders and regulators are an important part of our global product safety strategy for keeping our platform safe.
“Our Regulatory Portal enables authorities from around the world to report listings of unsafe products for swift removal.”
Which? also said it contacted the seller of Amazon’s Gresonic lights, Zhenxiaeu, which stated the lights had previously passed Amazon’s audit and met the standards of UKCA mark.
Other sellers from AliExpress, Wish and eBay declined to comment.
The government, as part of The Office for Product Safety and Standards’ (OPSS), must ensure that online marketplaces are made legally responsible for unsafe products sold on their sites.
Which? said the government must “make online marketplaces legally responsible for dangerous and illegal products sold through their sites so that people are better protected”.
The consumer group has previously warned about “energy saving” devices being sold online that could cause house fires, explosions and electric shocks.
How to stay safe shopping online
If you’re planning to shop online with marketplaces here’s what you need to know, according to Citizens Advice.
Check the product details: this should include: photos; a description; cost of the item; delivery charges; contact details for the seller; and any cancellation rights.
If information is missing and it’s a private seller, it can make it difficult for you to ask for your money back.
Check if the product is being sold by a trader or a private seller – this is important as your rights are different.
Read previous reviews as these can often flag potential issues; but watch out for fake reviews. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Take screenshots of the item you want to buy. This will come in handy if the item you receive is different to what you saw on the website.
Use a payment method that protects you – a credit card is best. But debit cards and Paypal offer come protection. Avoid paying by bank transfer.
Go back to the seller if there’s a problem: explain what’s happened, how you’d like them to fix it and give a deadline for them to respond. If they don’t sort it out, see if there’s an alternative dispute resolution service that can help.
Report them and the online marketplace to Trading Standards if you think the issue is unfair.
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