EU urges consumer caution after reports on unsafe electrical goods

(dpa) - European consumers should exercise caution when buying electrical extension cords and lamps, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said Monday as two reports revealed the high number of defects in such products.

"There are very high levels of non-compliance" with European standards for both extension cords and domestic lamps, so "the main message to consumers is that you should buy branded goods from well-known retailers and avoid the very low end of the market where the risks are always higher," she said.

According to a survey part-funded by the commission and carried out jointly by market authorities in 20 European Union states, only one in six household extension cords tested complied with EU rules, while over half - 58 per cent - were dangerous enough to be banned.

Half of all cords had the wrong shape or size of plug or socket, more than a quarter had insufficiently thick cables and one in 10 was not properly resistant to heat, fire and ageing, the survey said.

And just 5 per cent of the household lamps examined in 15 EU states were free of faults, although in this case the samples taken were chosen on the basis of probable breaches of EU rules.

Faults identified included a lack of earthing systems, overly fragile methods of attaching the cord to the lamp, and insufficient ability to withstand heat and electrical overloads.

Coming on the back of last summer's spate of recalls of dangerous toys, the surveys further strengthen the European Commission's hand in its drive to boost market surveillance across the 27-member EU.

"This is less about the specific products and much more about increased market surveillance," and the commission "will have any number of joint actions going ahead in the next year on sensitive issues where we know there are problems," the spokeswoman said.

By the end of this year, the commission hopes for the results of surveys carried out by groups of member states on Christmas lights, cigarette lighters, playground equipment and toys and childcare products which could cause suffocation.

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