More than 80% of online marketplace products fail in Government safety checks

More than 80% of items bought from online marketplaces for a Government testing programme have failed safety checks, leading to concerns the UK has become a “dumping ground” for unsafe products.

The Government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) tested 2,260 products sold via online marketplaces between October 2021 and September 2022, finding that 1,832 (81%) failed to meet safety standards.

The product category with the highest rate of non-compliance was toys, closely followed by small mains powered electricals.

The toys failed product safety testing on areas such as strangulation hazards to children under 36 months, while electrical items failed testing against UK safety standards for electrical goods, which could pose a risk of electric shocks or electrical fires.

The OPSS said it targeted products, also including cosmetics and products containing button batteries, that routinely appeared in recalls and alerts, had poor reviews or appeared to be of low quality in the listing photos, and so warned that the findings were not representative of all products sold by online marketplaces.

However, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said it was concerned about the “overwhelmingly high” rate of non-compliance, “demonstrating that online marketplaces are still flooding the UK with unsafe goods and posing serious risks to UK consumers”.

CTSI chief executive John Herriman said: “We welcome the OPSS investigation into the safety of products being sold on online marketplaces. However, the sheer volume and proportion of goods that aren’t meeting basic safety checks is appalling – we have standards for a reason – including to protect the public’s health and safety.

“It is concerning to see this level of products failing safety testing, particularly when the highest category of non-compliance is toys.

“We would urge the Government to take action to stop unsafe products entering our supply chains and online marketplaces – this includes ensuring enough checks are taking place at ports and borders. We also call on online marketplaces to be more rigorous in undertaking checks across their platforms.”

Jerry Burnie, head of compliance at the British Toy and Hobby Association, said: “The BTHA have tested over 550 products in the last six years and have been pushing for a change in the law to ensure that the online marketplaces are jointly and severally liable for products sold by third-parties via their platforms, which otherwise would not have access to the UK market.

“This is a situation that has not improved over those six years. We are pleased that OPSS’ own figures have now confirmed our findings and hope that sufficient action will be taken to ensure consumers are protected from these dangerous and unsafe products.”

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The findings have prompted concerns over safety standards (Adam Peck/PA)

Lesley Rudd, chief executive of safety charity Electrical Safety First, said: “The evidence is overwhelming, online marketplaces are a hot bed for dangerous and non-compliant goods.

“These new figures from the Government show that online shopping is a minefield, with consumers unknowingly exposed to thousands of unsafe goods, many of which can be in their homes the very next day.

“Decisive action has never been so urgent, online marketplaces cannot be relied upon to self-regulate the issue of illegal and harmful goods on their platforms. The Government must act without delay to finally force them to take steps to ensure that these goods sold via their sites, from which they profit, are safe.”