Amazon and eBay found selling suspected illegal e-bike chargers

UK charity Electrical Safety First found dangerous charging devices on Amazon Marketplace, as more fires caused by e-bike batteries are reported

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service e-bike fires
(Image credit: Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service)

An investigation conducted by Electrical Safety First, a UK charity dedicated to reducing death and injury caused by electricity in the home, has revealed that Amazon Marketplace, eBay, and AliExpress have all been selling suspected illegal and highly dangerous charging devices for e-bikes on their websites.

Electrical Safety First found 59 listings of illegal and dangerous e-bike chargers across the four retailers, which were all subsequently removed or blocked. One marketplace also removed hundreds more listings based on the information provided by the charity. 

The chargers are incompatible with the lithium-ion batteries in e-bikes, increasing the risk of a fault occurring within the battery, which can subsequently cause  fires. They also found they fell below the necessary safety standards for sale to UK consumers. A number of fires have been linked to electric bike and scooter chargers and batteries this year.

Electrical Safety First discovered these chargers lacked any visible fuse and were very small in size, exposing the user to fire and electric shock. Plugs without a fuse also don't have the ability to cut out in the event of a fault in the supply lead, creating a greater risk of fire. 

Martyn Allen, technical director of Electrical Safety First, stated: “By the very nature of the batteries these dangerous charging devices are powering, it is a potential disaster waiting to happen. The process of charging e-bike batteries must be done with compatible and compliant chargers.

"These chargers we have identified for sale all pose an increased risk of fire and electric shock and should never have been available for sale to UK shoppers in the first instance. 

"Given the frightening nature of lithium-ion battery fires, it is essential the charging equipment doesn’t pose any unnecessary risk to the battery or user."

He added that there was a lack of vital regulation to make online marketplaces responsible for the safety of goods sold via their platforms which he said was "contributing significantly to dangerous products entering people’s homes".

A spokesperson for Amazon said it had removed the products identified by the charity from sale while it investigated. They added: "We have proactive measures in place to prevent suspicious or non-compliant products from being listed and we monitor the products sold in our stores for product safety concerns. 

"When appropriate, we remove a product from the store, reach out to sellers, manufacturers, and government agencies for additional information, or take other actions.  

Meanwhile, eBay, and AliExpress all also said they had removed the e-bike chargers from their websites. 

An eBay spokesperson said: “In addition to our block filter algorithms and security teams monitoring the site, we work closely with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure eBay remains free of unsafe products.  

“In this instance, our close working relationship with ESF and the Trading Standards team at Kensington & Chelsea Council enabled the swift removal of these products.” said: "All of our merchants must comply with local laws whenever selling on our platform, as noted in Wish’s Merchant Terms of Service and Wish Policies.

"Out of an abundance of caution, and in accordance with our policies, we are temporarily blocking these product listings from the EU and UK markets, pending the final outcome of the merchant-investigation. Once adequate documentation or a response is received, we will review and consider whether further action is needed." 

Spate of fires

Electrical Safety First's findings come at a time when fire services are concerned with a spate of fires in the UK linked to e-bikes. Indeed, the London Fire Brigade issued another e-bike safety warning earlier this week, after five people were rescued from a flat fire in the early hours of a morning last week.

Four fire engines and 25 firefights attended the London flat, with the fire believed to have been caused by a lithium-ion battery for an e-bike. One person was taken to hospital. 

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “It’s incredibly concerning we are continuing to see a rise in incidents involving e-bikes and e-scooters. When these batteries and chargers fail, they do so with ferocity and because the fires develop so rapidly the situation can quickly become incredibly serious.

“Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure if incorrect chargers are used and there is a significant risk posed by e-bikes which have been converted. We are predominantly seeing fires in ones which have been purchased from online marketplaces and batteries which have been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards."

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