Life threatening smoke alarms, fairy lights and toys found on eBay and Amazon

Thousands of items for sale on websites such as Ali Express, eBay and Amazon Marketplace have failed major safety tests, a report has warned.

Teeth-whitening products, smoke alarms, balloons and helmets all failed a Which? safety test, suggesting they could be placing people's lives at risk.

The investigation found two-thirds of the products – including carbon monoxide alarms, baby toys and travel adaptors – bought from third-party sellers on the most popular sites failed EU safety requirements. 

In total, 250 products across 18 categories were tested over the last year and 165 of them failed official checks. Many were found to be a safety risk to consumers because of factors including containing harmful substances, inferior design or unclear information. 

Which also found power banks that melted during testing and Christmas lights that could pose an electric shock.

Online marketplaces aren't currently responsible for the safety of the products sold through their sites and the new findings show that this is failing to stop many unsafe products being listed for sale.

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Safety tests were also carried out by the other European consumers' associations and found teeth-whitening products with too much hydrogen peroxide, kids' clothes that were choking hazards and cosmetics sold without their ingredients listed.

Neena Bhati, head of campaigns, Which?, said: "Online marketplaces have quickly become a popular way for people to shop online and yet Which? testing has repeatedly exposed how large numbers of dangerous products are sold on these sites everyday.

"These platforms have failed to get a grip on this despite years of warnings, and so the government must now step in to make online marketplaces responsible for ensuring the safety of the products sold on their sites."

An Amazon spokesman said: "Safety is a top priority at Amazon. We require all products offered in our store to comply with applicable laws and regulations and have developed industry-leading tools to prevent unsafe or non-compliant products from being listed in our stores.

"Sellers are responsible for meeting Amazon’s high bar for product quality and we may remove and take legal action against those who do not. These are isolated incidents that do not reflect the fantastic products and customer experience provided by millions of small businesses selling in our store."

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AliExpress said it takes product safety very seriously.

"AliExpress takes product safety very seriously and works relentlessly to ensure that consumers are protected on our platform. We have strict platform rules that require all third-party sellers to comply with all applicable local laws and regulations," a statement said.

"AliExpress has strong processes and technology in place to help prevent the listing of any products that violate our policies, such as proactively screening for and taking down any non-compliant listings.

"When we are made aware of unsafe or prohibited items on our platform, as on this occasion with Which?, we act quickly to remove them and take action against the sellers, which can include suspending their accounts or removing them from the platform."

Ebay said it has now removed the listings in question.

"These listings have been removed and we have taken enforcement action against the sellers.

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"We have no tolerance for unsafe, banned, recalled, or illegal products on our marketplaces, and it is required in our User Agreement that all sellers comply with the law.

"Between October 2018 and October 2019 our filters automatically blocked 5 million listings from entering the marketplace on product safety grounds. eBay also works with organisations around the world including the EU market surveillance authorities and Westminster Trading Standards. If any of these authorities informs us that a product is dangerous, we ban it on all our marketplaces globally and action sellers in the form of a warning, restriction, suspension or ban."

Wish said: "All of the merchants on our platform are required to adhere to local laws and safety standards wherever their goods are sold. In the rare instance where a product falls below those standards and sufficient evidence is provided, we take the appropriate action to remove the items as swiftly as possible. In some cases, we also apply sanctions to merchants who have intentionally circumvented our policies and safety standards.

"As we continue to grow and expand our product range, we are exploring a number of new technologies and initiatives to help improve the customer experience and ensure we are creating a safe and fun environment for users to shop online."

Which? is calling on the Government to make online marketplaces legally responsible for ensuring the safety of products sold on their sites.

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